VoIP has always been a challenge for emergency services, and while enhanced 911 (E911) has helped, we still have a way to go before all the kinks are completely worked out. One current challenge that still exists is when workers need to call 911 using a cloud-based hosted IP-PBX (News - Alert).
While E911 works when someone calls from their cellular phone, what happens when a worker in distress is using a phone with a company-provided SIP softphone running on a mobile device such as iOS or Android (News - Alert)?
“Many people in an emergency will simply use the enterprise mobile VoIP app's keypad displayed on their mobile device, even if that would result in the 911 call going out through the corporate PBX,” wrote TMCnet’s CTO and Executive Editor Tom Keating (News - Alert) in its coverage of ITEXPO 2012.
Cellular triangulation is relatively accurate in such an emergency situation, but a 911 distress call obviously doesn’t work when the call is being routed through the office via the softphone.
One of the panels at ITEXPO (News - Alert) addressed just such a situation, and softphones need not present a problem for E911 if a little care is applied at the coding stage.
The solution, basically, is to recognize the difference between a 911 call and a non-emergency call, Keating explained.
“Essentially, the softphone should detect 911 is being dialed and then pass the call off to the default mobile phone dialer,” the blog continued, “which will then use the accurate cellular location data.”
With a little more awareness logic built in, a softphone could also detext if the emergency call is being made through cellular service or if Wi-Fi is being used. In the case of Wi-Fi, the call could be routed through the corporate PBX. If a cellular call, it could route through the default dialer.
“Unfortunately, I have yet to see this implemented,” Keating reported.
Vendors such as Counterpath's Bria or 3CX's free SIP softphone do not have this logic built into their offers, according to the blog, but such useful modifications look to be on the way.
“One of the panelists said he was aware of one PBX vendor doing this,” Keating noted.
Ultimately, with the proliferation of BYOD, it is just a matter of time. Hosted PBX offers significant cost savings, but at the same time regulatory mandates require emergency services. A solution must be implemented to allow nomadic users within and beyond the service provider footprint, FCC (News - Alert)/CRTC compliance and other regulatory hurdles to be met.
“I suspect we will see this capability very soon as mobile VoIP and BYOD continues to take off,” Keating predicted.
This solution looks to already be out there, so let's hope it's just a matter of time until vendors begin to roll it into their products.