9-1-1 Location Accuracy Critical to Industry
One of the most talked-about topics and heavily attended sessions during last week’s APCO International Conference & Expo concerned the issue of 9-1-1 location accuracy, and its potential impact on public safety.
Earlier this year, the FCC adopted new rules that require wireless service providers to improve 9‑1-1 location accuracy. The FCC’s rules were based on a Roadmap for Improving 9-1-1 Location Accuracy agreed upon last year by several major wireless carriers, APCO and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).
During a session on the final day of last week’s conference entitled “Improving 9-1-1 Location Accuracy” APCO members received regulatory andtechnical a updates on the critical issue facing PSAP’s and the entire industry.
“9-1-1 has really always been a priority for the wireless industry, and we take very seriously our role and the role of wireless in improving public safety,” said Matt Gerst, Director of Regulatory Affairs at CTIA. “We all agree that the goal of wireless 9-1-1 is to respond as quickly as possible.”
Gerst said the advantages made in wireless technology over the past 20 years turned into a challenge for the current industry.
But what has stifled the industry and the public is that while new improvements in location information continue to emerge in everyday lives via Facebook, Waze, and other mediums, public safety technology has not kept up. Currently, the majority of cellphone-to-911 location technology being used was meant for outdoor use and doesn’t work nearly as well indoors.
“The question that we’ve got over the last two years is that if an app can locate me with more granularity than 9-1-1, why can’t we do the same in 9-1-1?,” Gerst said. “And that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to improve wireless 9-1-1 location to meet our expectations using the wireless industry’s success in commercial location services as the roadmap envisioned.”
The FCC has mandated that carriers by April 2017 have 40 percent of all calls delivered with a dispatchable location or a longitude-latitude location within 50 meters.
Over a four-year period, it must increase to 80 percent of all calls.
Gerst described dispatchable location as the “crown jewel” of the new approach to the technology — the concept of not just providing a longitude-latitude strategy, but trying to utilize Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, to get to an actual dispatchable address, then have that address sent to the PSAP.
“It’s important that we recognize that 9-1-1 location-based information must get on a path with location-based services, and harnessing available technology,” Gerst said. “These technologies are out there today and we should be taking advantage of them, using them to enable more accurate location information.”
Among other action that will be taken to help resolve the problem: the establishment of a national emergency accuracy database; instituting an independently administered test bed to test existing technologies, evaluation of all available technologies provided by location-solution vendors; and verifying how carriers comply with the legal requirements using live call data instead of drive testing.
Gerst said cellular companies are becoming more aggressive in their efforts to improve 9-1-1 location accuracy, and along with regulatory efforts, there are positive signs that solutions are on the horizon.