Securing Data With BLOCKCHAIN . . . In Plain English

An AUDIO version of this blog is available on http://Avaya.com/APN

Like any other Sunday morning when I’m not traveling, I park myself at my local luncheonette; grab my big Avaya mug from the wall behind the counter, and stick on my headphones. I Then immerse myself into the weeks technology tweets and blogs from the people I respect the most in the industry.

Evan Kirstel is one individual that never ceases to amaze me, either with inspiring tweets of his own, or something worthy of his RT, and likely worth reading. Today, a particular article he posted caught my eye. It appears that a D-Link DNS hack has become problematic where Hackers modify the router DNS to their own nefarious DNS look-alike. By doing this, any requests made for the IP address of someone’s bank, for example, would return a spoofed address of the hackers look alike bank site. Unsuspecting users would then login with their normal credentials, which would be collected by the hackers and then used later to drain accounts.

The security exploit here, is that the person is relying on information from one location, the DNS entry in the D-Link Router. it assumes that the IP Address of the DNS server provisioned is valid and authenticated, which in fact is not. This immediately struck me as a classic use case for blockchain, and an excellent way to explain it to those who may not understand.

As it was explained to me, blockchain is an architecture that stores data in multiple locations (or blocks) across the Internet. The actual data in the block itself is irrelevant. In fact, it is the container of that data that is tagged with an identifier unique to that block of data. In addition, the identifier is changed each time the contents of the container is modified, and this identifier is replicated everywhere the data is stored across the internet. When a user retrieves a specific block of data, they can then compare the identifier of the container with the other containers of the information. Should there be a mismatch in the identifier, it becomes immediately apparent that the data is not current, or valid. So, while it may be possible, or even easy to hack a particular container, replicating that to every other instance of the container would be nearly impossible. The more secure the data needs to be, the more container instances would exist, making it near impossible without quantum computing power and many say even that would be questionable.

This makes the value proposition here quite simple. If I’m going to hack your data, I need to hack every instance of your data, or you will know that the proverbial “seal has been broken”. It would be clear to all that the data has been tampered with without actually seeing the data, which ensures privacy. Knowing this, let’s go back to our DNS hack example.

When your router establishes an online connection, the router obtains its IP address, subnet mask, default Gateway, and DNS server information via DHCP. To ensure that DNS has not been hacked and spoofed, with a nefarious spoofed server address, it would be a simple matter of inspecting the blockchain identifier on the DNS data coming in, and also when the contents have changed. This will confirm if the blockchain address is valid as compared to other known data sources.

If a hacker managed to attack your router and modify the DNS IP address entry, it would be immediately known and could be flagged as an insecure source of data. That being said, please remember this was intended to be just an example to illustrate how blockchain could be used in a very simple environment. As you evaluate new infrastructure and architecture, don’t ignore the block chain value proposition built within products. Understand what they have, where the manufacturer is going from a roadmap perspective, and what could be used to lock down your data in this ever-changing, and fast-moving Internet of Everything.

To bring this full circle back into my Public Safety practice, Next Generation 911 networks will be chock-full of data and information from various sources. Protecting our critical life safety systems on the backend will be a challenge. At the same time, we can no longer lock these systems away in the back room away from the data that’s needed to evaluate situational awareness that will ultimately save lives. I believe blockchain will play a significant role in the validation of that data, and the architecture that will allow good data to flow from the people who have it to the people who needed, while protecting those first responders from attacks by those looking to circumvent, and infect the system.

The lesson here is not only is guarded diligence. Understanding networks is critical in building our NG911 environment, but a specific eye on public safety security best practices is paramount. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, and what you perceive as suggestions and fears for the future.

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The Truth Behind the 911 F.E.E. (For Everything Else)

[CLICK HERE for an Audio Version of this Blog]

You are likely familiar with the expression, “I’m being nickled and dimed to death here!” The premise of that statement is that small subsets of a much larger bill will ultimately go unnoticed to most, as the scrutiny required to find each instance is typically more costly of an effort compared to just paying the bill. “Spending a dollar to save a quarter”, is another example.

Given this unfortunate situation, when you steal enough quarters, the payout can be huge. It’s right out of the script from the classic movie plot. Steal 1 penny 2,000,000 times and you have $20,000 completely under the radar. Steal a dollar every month from every cellular phone with a plan on the market, and you have a whopping pool of money! The CTIA estimates that in 2017, there were 396,000,000 cellular subscribers (https://api.ctia.org/docs/default-source/default-document-library/ctia-wireless-snapshot.pdf). That means in the US ALONE there is a potential money pool of $4,752,000,000 each year, if a single dollar per month were collected from each subscriber, and actually given to the cause it was collected for. Again, this is just the cellular fees alone.

It’s no wonder that States like New York, and New Jersey and several others all fail to report this income. Even worse, is when States openly spend the money on other uses, like Rhode Island. To make matters even worse, when the Ocean State got caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar, and were called out by the FCC, they simply changed the name of the fee, and continued to divert monies to activities that were not 911 related.

New Jersey was another example of gross misrepresentation where 89% of their funds were diverted. Think about that, if you knew that 90% of the money you put in the Salvation Army charity pots at Christmas time was going to something unrelated, would you continue to drop in your spare change? If the volunteer firemen took 90 cents out of every dollar they collected at intersections on the Holiday weekends, and spent it on beer and hamburgers, would you ever drop another dollar in the fire helmet? I sure wouldn’t.

THERE SHOULD BE A LAW . . .

Yes, there should, and quite possibly there will be one Legislator who gets his way. Rep. Chris Collins introduced the 911 Fee Integrity Act (H.R. 6424) to the U.S. House of Representatives in an effort to change how states use 911 fees they collect. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on July 18th, where it will be scheduled for a hearing.

As most Bills are, at this stage in their life cycle, the Bill is simple to understand and reads:

To amend the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999,
to clarify acceptable 9–1–1 obligations or expenditures, and for other purposes. 

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “9–1–1 Fee Integrity Act”.

 SEC. 2. CLARIFYING ACCEPTABLE 9–1–1 OBLIGATIONS OR EXPENDITURES.
Section 6(f) of the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999 (47 U.S.C. 615a–1(f)) is amended—

  • in paragraph (1), by striking “as specified in the provision of State or local law adopting the fee or charge” and inserting “consistent with acceptable obligations or expenditures in the final rules issued pursuant to paragraph (3)”; and
  • after paragraph (2), by inserting the following new paragraph:

“(3) ACCEPTABLE OBLIGATION OR EXPENDITURE.—

“(A) REGULATIONS REQUIRED.—In order to prevent diversion of 9–1–1 taxes, fees, or charges, the Commission shall, within 180 days after date of the enactment of this paragraph, issue final rules designating purposes and functions that are acceptable obligations or expenditures by any State or taxing jurisdiction authorized to impose a tax, fee, or charge.

“(B) PURPOSES AND FUNCTIONS.—The purposes and functions described in subparagraph (A) include only those used solely for the support and implementation of a State or taxing jurisdiction 9–1–1 services and operational expenses of public safety answering points within a State or taxing jurisdiction.

“(C) CONSULTATION REQUIRED.—The Commission shall consult with public safety organizations and State, local, and Tribal governments as part of any proceeding under this paragraph.

“(D) DEFINITIONS.—In this paragraph:

“(i) 9–1–1 SERVICES; E9–1–1 SERVICES; NEXT GENERATION 9–1–1 SERVICES.—The terms ‘9–1–1 services’, ‘E9–1–1 services’, and ‘Next Generation 9–1–1 services’ have the meaning given those terms in section 158(e) of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Organization Act (47 U.S.C. 942(e)).

“(ii) STATE OR TAXING JURISDICTION.—The term ‘State or taxing jurisdiction’ means a State, political subdivision thereof, Indian Tribe, or village or regional corporation serving a region established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.).”.

Remember, your elected officials WILL VOTE based on your input. Reach out to them, make them aware that your personal safety, and theirs, is on the line here. Tell them that if they will not change the law to keep this from happening, you will ensure that someone who will is going to get your vote at the next election.

Our nation’s First Responder agencies need our help, they put their lives on the line everyday so that we can remain safe, the least we can do is ensure the monies collected in the name actually get to them!

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Simple, Safe and Smart Cities – Enterprise Solutions at NENA

Anyone that’s known me for any amount of time knows that I’m a huge advocate of access to emergency services within the enterprise or commercial workspace, and a main driver behind Kari’s Law.

Quite often, when a problem exists that we don’t understand, wrong solutions are selected, as the decision is based on emotional response and misunderstandings. Enterprise public safety services are a perfect example of this issue.

Enterprise E911 can be summarized in a simple statement:
“Emergency Services are based on the caller ID presented with the call, and the billing address that is associated with that number.”

The workflow are simple, and no different than when I call United Airlines; where I am greeted by name by their AI based voice response system. According to my past history, I’m offered a choice of options presented to me in the most logical order, according to what the system  knows about me this instant, which happens to be  and my trip to Nashville on Friday. If I called last week, it would have asked me about my trip to Toronto. There really is no great magic here; These are simply forms of AI logic, interacting with me in an environments that is contained, predictable, and has a definitive list service of potential  outcomes.

So how does this apply to public safety? Quite simply, as far as the enterprise is concerned today?, It really doesn’t. But what does apply to the enterprise is the management of call presentation, as well as providing detailed situational awareness to internal management and staff that can now formulate, as well as coordinate an effective response plan, and THEN make that data available in a open interface to Public Safety if they want it,

In the past, it’s been common practice to place individual enterprise telephone numbers into the 911 location database, while including information such as cubicle 2C–231 so that Public Safety knows exactly where I am in the building. But when you step back and look at the solution, what you actually provided is very specific and detailed information, but information that is not actionable. This creates a false sense of security, thinking that a problem is been corrected, when in fact it’s just been moved.

The BIG PICTURE is the fire truck, police car, or ambulance getting to the proper building, and ideally the most appropriate entrance. Despite how big the building is, or how many people are housed in that building. If a building has four entrances, then first responders need to understand which one is most appropriate, not an untranslatable reference to specific location.

On the backend of that scenario: the internal mission that has begun inside of the facility. Whether it’s a school, commercial business, or even a hospital, someone likely needs to respond to that location, or at a bare minimum, they need to meet the public safety response team at one of those four doors while having full awareness of the location and severity of the incident.

This construct is actually not a new idea. You may have several telephones in your house, yet each phone doesn’t have its own unique telephone number in most cases. Based on this, the math becomes simple. In my building of 500 people, do I want to pay several dollars a month each in order to cover each person with information that is not actionable or relevant? Or do I want to focus on a solution that provides not just on-site notification of the event, but situational awareness. Floor plans, temperature sensors, the world of IOT, IP video cameras exist in  each enterprise, yet we do nothing to capture, catalog, and utilize that precious information.

Many people are confused about what Next-Generation 911 services will provide. While location accuracy can certainly be improved upon, with richer fidelity of the information, the goal behind NG 911 is NOT to send heaps of data to the PSAP. It’s about providing an indicator to the PSAP call taker that additional data is available, and if they are interested in that information, here is a web URL or URI that will bring it to you.

This new concept, changes the game for the enterprise. Not only are they now responsible for generating a call or session to emergency services, they will be responsible for providing a list, or ‘menu’ if you will, of additional data that’s available if the call taker is interested.

Based on new legislation and our customers’ requirements for this new model and functionality, Avaya has entered into a resale agreement with the developers of a tried and true application called SENTRY™. For the past several years, SENTRY™ has been available to customers and partners through the Avaya DevConnect Select Product program, however now, SENTRY™ is now available directly from Avaya,  and operates on the Avaya Aura CM, Session Manager, and the IP office architecture.

In addition to covering wired and wireless users within the enterprise, support for remote, nomadic, and home teleworkers, SENTRY™ functionality is also available securely to ANY MLTS system through a national umbrella of coverage, and a direct relationship with a Tier 1 NG 911 network carrier, as well as the ability to take E911 call routing from any system. For more information contact your local Avaya representative or distributor, and ask for demonstration of the SENTRY™ 911 solution for the enterprise. You’ll be amazed at the simplicity, functionality, and price.

Stop by and see the Avaya Smart City at NENA Booth #545, where we’ll demonstrate Avaya’s End to End Emergency Services Solution powered by Avaya, Beta 80, Engelbart Software, iNemsoft, and Secure 911.

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A Breezy Summer – Artificial Innovations

This weekend I had the opportunity to go shopping at the local mall. Since it was raining, and I needed to pick up quite a bit of stuff, I decided to valet park. The initial nice surprise was that valet parking was free! The next nicety, was that when I arrived the attendant merely asked me for my cell phone number. I immediately got a text message with links to my electronic valet ticket, and although parking was free the opportunity to use my credit card for a tip.

[ FOR AN AUDIO VERSION OF THIS BLOG – CLICK HERE ]

Almost immediately, the gears in my head began to turn slowly as my internal “workflow engine” thought process neurons sprung to life. Working at Avaya has taught me many things, but one thing it has taught me, is to always be watching for innovative new ways that technology can be applied to improve a process that already exists. When I’m asked what I do for a living, or what Avaya does, I typically respond that, “Avaya connects people with the information and resources that they need, when they need it, and then empowers those resources by providing additional information needed to complete the task “.

That being said, here is the workflow behind my new AutoValet™ Breeze™ Snapp-In application, using common off-the-shelf technology openly available today.

A car enters the parking lot, and the license plate reader scans the plate.

If an account exists, AutoValet™ sends an SMS message to my phone with a link to my electronic valet ticket.

If validation is required, merchants can simply scan the QR code on my electronic valet ticket, or provide a validation code in a text message back to the AutoValet™ application.

On my way out of the M all, I click on the link in my electronic valet ticket, indicating my departure, and providing an opportunity to pay if appropriate.

A text message is sent to the valet attendant with all of my vehicle information, as well as payment confirmation if needed.

When I arrive to the pickup area, my vehicle is there waiting for me, and the financial transaction is eliminated, unless I want to give him a few extra dollars for this wonderful new customer engagement and digital transformation that I just experienced!

AutoValet™ can send me monthly statements, let me manage my account, add additional vehicles, and associate specific mobile numbers with one or more of those license plates.

As the account owner, I can be notified when any vehicle utilizes the service, letting me know who has used it, and where.

New accounts can be set up online in advance, or by simply responding to the initial license plate scan with a keyword such as “NEW ACCOUNT”. The application would  then deliver a webpage that would allow a new account to be established.

This is simple Artificial Intelligence. Not the scary kind of AI, but the assistive side of AI. This is a helper application designed to make human employees more efficient in the tasks that they already perform. In this case, this AI is nothing more than a tool. Too often I hear horror stories about what people believe that AI is all about. And like most other things, ignorance is bliss.

That being said, I think we all have opportunities to innovate and elevate our lives through technology. In the 1950’s, Charles J. Fletcher, my father was working on vertical takeoff aircraft as a Pilot and Commander in the United States Navy.  With vertical takeoff being a difficult engineering challenge, my father came up with an alternative solution for the problem. He eliminated the rough ground problem by floating on a cushion of air, and this basic concept has become the primary technology behind today’s hovercraft.

One of the many life lessons taught to me as a child growing up, was to look at the ways that a problem could not be solved, determine the roadblock, then eliminate it. What will remain, is an innovative path that no one has thought of before.

So I challenge you, one day during this next week, examine what you are doing, and how you were doing it. Identify those annoying repetitive tasks that you do over, and over, and over each day. Then think about how that process could be made “artificially intelligent”, by adding some common logic to eliminate those repetitive tasks. I honestly believe that what you’ll find is some incredibly new innovative ideas. Now, go invent something great!

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NG911 and Big Data – Is It TMI?

It’s no secret that, according to VcloudNews, humans and machines generated 2.5 quintillion bytes of information each day on the Internet. How big this is? It would fill 100 million Blu-ray discs, which if stacked, would measure the height of four Eiffel Towers on top of each other. With this much data being generated, we reached a point in our lives when humans can no longer be expected to process information at a usable rate by themselves. This is where the “Age of Artificial Intelligence” needs to come into existence if we are going to utilize this information in any useful way.

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Understandably, AI scares people. We are often afraid of what we don’t understand. However, when used properly, AI can be an assistive technology and not in control. Intelligence is already built into some of the most common events in our lives. For example, after washing, I put my clothes in the dryer. I use the automatic setting, and press start. I’ now free to walk away, go for dinner, or even take a nap if I choose. The dryer is “programmed” to run for a period of time, and on a newer machine, a sensor indicates the moisture content of my delicates. In either case, when criteria is met, the heat shuts off and my close continue to tumble for a period of time. This simple logic has made my dumb clothes dryer “artificially intelligent”.

This can be applied to any process, including many predefined procedures found in public safety 911 centers. Remember though, this is not about replacing the call taker or dispatcher; it is about providing them with relevant additional information, based on predetermined indicators, helping them arrive at a decision point quickly.

Let’s look at two outcomes of the same scenario, first using today’s technology, and then using artificial intelligence to augment and assist in the decision-making process.

David is speeding down the highway in his 2018 GM vehicle. His fiancée Susan is sitting next to him in the passenger seat. A deer runs out impacting him head-on. David violently swerves into the median, where the car overturns four times landing on its roof leaving both occupants unconscious and seriously injured. Sensors in the vehicle detect the high Delta-V (rate of deceleration), the deployment of both passenger and driver airbags, as well as the detection of specific crush zones on the vehicle.

Today:
The in vehicle system (IVS) generates a call to the OnStar call center, flagged as an emergency. The call is routed to an ACD queue staffed by emergency medical dispatchers. Vehicle data and location information appears on their screen. An attempt to communicate with the occupants verbally is initiated, and a three-way conference with the public safety agency responsible is started. Information is passed on verbally to the 911 call center, where local protocol for dispatch is followed.

Tomorrow:
The same situation initiates a different process or workflow. In addition to notifying OnStar and attempting to get a call taker in verbal contact with the vehicle, an IP enabled SIP session is set up into the local Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) where the 911 call taker is presented with the telematics data and bridged into a three way audio bridge between the vehicle, the OnStar call taker, and the PSAP. The system does an analysis of the data, indicating an 80% chance of entrapment and lower leg trauma on the driver.

The dispatcher is prompted to dispatch recommended resources which include heavy rescue, advanced life support, and a medical air evacuation unit. They also have the ability to edit resources desired and then dispatch with a single button.

Bed counts and staffing levels are examined at the local hospitals, the availability of an orthopedic surgeon and operating room is determined, and based on big data, a destination facility is recommended. A single touch to confirm or edit, and the data is on its way to the hospital where staff can prepare for the patient arrival.

This situation has brought to light the efficient use of AI to determine the best response and action, all while remaining under complete control of a human. Resources become more efficient and effective and are available sooner for other missions. While many may be afraid of AI replacing humans, thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator movies, I don’t see Skynet being right around the corner.

An added benefit is that AI is available from the cloud, making it affordable to agencies from New York City in a large-scale deployment, or as small as Sparta Police in New Jersey with their two positions, where I cut my teeth on dispatching 37 years ago.

It’s not about building a data center to process data in the building anymore. It’s about using the cloud through multiple resilient paths; sharing the workload with other agencies who will also be available to provide coverage and backup for when “the big one” hits, no matter where or when that might be. This radically changes the curriculum for a Public Safety career, however the skill sets required are also taught for positions in the commercial space, and best practices remain across verticals.

Screenshot 2018-05-06 17.20.35

As I’ve said before, AI is not just about HAL, and getting pod bay doors open.
Besides, in addition to being intelligent, HAL copped an attitude . . .

But in reality he was just programmed that way.

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AI Runs Amok in the Silicon Valley

With the introduction of quantum computing on the verge of reality, much progress is emerging out of California’s Silicon Valley, where cyber geeks have been working for years on the latest in technological advancements.

This weekend, a new breed of AI threat has emerged out of Santa Clara. According to unofficial reports from local transients and former AOL executives that were ‘still on the market’ and offering, ‘flexible services’; there was some scary happenings that were witnessed by many that were on the fringe of HAL 9000, Skynet, and ARIIA all becoming a reality.

An anonymous employee at a large major technology firm, simply stated, “Oh my God! ARNIE got out this weekend!” He described this new Artificial Reasoning Network Intelligent Entity (or ARNIE) as the next generation of AI, and something that has been deemed ‘AE’, or an Artificial Entity due to it’s ability to think and reason. This power of reasoning, as well as connectivity to all of the technology computers in the Valley, ARNIE is posing quite a threat to corporate security firms this the Bay Area technology hub.

“With full broadband connectivity and the ability to communicate with, and exploit the logic of other, less intelligent computer systems, ARNIE is posing a threat that has not been considered before”, said local Security expert, I.M. Fullacrap. The scary part is that ARNIE also appears to have a sense of humor, and a new found ‘playground’ where it can exercise it’s capabilities.

Not only has ARNIE convinced the Domino’s Inside Pizza System Hotel Information Tracking (DIPSHIT) system and ordering Pizza’s to unsuspecting Hotel occupants, ARNIE is using the UBER network to deliver them, ensuring that if they do actually arrive, they are in less than edible condition, since ARNIE is talking to WAZE and routing most deliveries to the Bay Area from Spokane.

ARNIE’s playful side has also extended to the Google self-driving cars, where one executive is allegedly trapped in the back seat of the vehicle and someplace in the dessert. With limited cellular service, the vehicle is driving in circles searching for a signal. Experts expect it to run out of gas soon, or hit a cactus.

Oddly enough, all of this is happening on April 1, and I sincerely hope that, once again this year, all my readers have a good sense of humor.

 

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“Up To Date” on KCUR w/ Steve Kraske

Thanks to KUCR’s Steve Kraske for inviting me on to talk about the many problems with the 911 network. Too many rumors, assumptions and misconceptions exist today, as so-called ‘experts’ expound on past experiences that are not always correct.

This segment of “Up to Date” aired on Friday March 9th at noon central.

A Bittersweet Birthday

For the last four years, on February 9, I have made a phone call to someone who has become a dear friend. In the years past, this has always been a sad phone call, and often tears are shed. But this year things were different.

Today, when I called Hank Hunt, father of Kari Hunt, there were no tears, there was no sadness, there was an incredible amount of relief and satisfaction.

Even though four years, two months, and eight days ago, Kari was brutally murdered in an East Texas hotel room, when her 9-year old daughter was unable to dial 9-1-1, it is quite fitting that on what would have been her 36th birthday, the United States Congress passed HR 582 (Kari’s Law Act of 2017), after being amended by the U.S. Senate, and sent the Bill to the president of the United States to be signed into the law of the land.

For those that are unaware, Kari’s Law requires that multiline telephone systems (MLTS) provide access to emergency services by directly dialing the digits 911, without having to dial a prefix code such as nine first. To ensure that local staff is aware of the emergency event, a method of on-site notification must be activated if provided by the system. Finally, emergency calls cannot be intercepted by local on-site staff, unless training has been provided to the level necessary to handle an emergency call.

From the moment that this was brought to the FCC’s attention, Ajit Pai, then only a Commissioner, reached out to me for more information on this tragic incident. On January 10, 2014 I met with Commissioner Pai and his staff, and after realizing that technology was not the issue, and that this affected tens of thousands of hotel rooms across the United States, in addition to the phones within the Federal Communications Commission building itself, he began his crusade to fix what was very wrong.

When I first talked to Hank Hunt back in December 2013, he had just buried his daughter. It was the hardest phone call I ever had to make, but I assured him that this could be fixed, and it could be done without creating a financial burden to businesses. Despite every other PBX manufacturer running away from this problem in fear of what they did not know, I chose to continue forward.

Avaya is a people company. Our employees are like family. In many cases, the people that we deal with or do business with quickly become part of our extended family. The Hunts are a simple East Texas family with strong values and great spirit. Very quickly after meeting them, they made me part of their extended family, which is something that I cherish very deeply. Kari’s Law is a wonderful story, not just about technology, but about people helping people who help people. While I admittedly have my faults, this is one thing that I can stand behind and know that I have done something that will transcend time, and make a difference in people’s lives.

While our battle is not over, we can certainly do a victory dance around this advancement, and celebrate Kari’s life that now has a greater meaning than ever before. Hank has always said the one thing he hopes for is that Kari’s death was not in vain. Based on the Congressional win today, I believe he can claim victory. Hopefully that will provide a moment of celebration on what would have been the 36th birthday for Kari Hunt, who made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of others.

 

POTS and PANS and little PAIN

If you have been around the telecom world for any length of time, you know that the term ‘POTS’ has nothing to do with the latest cooking accessory on the Food Network. When we refer to Plain Old Telephone Service, we are talking about standard copper phone lines, like the ones you would find in your home. For years, the aphorism has been to install these POTS lines as the backup to modern digital services, as POTS typically work when most other systems fail, require no power, and any regular telephone from Radio Shack (if you can find a store) can be plugged in, delivering a basic level of service. [READ THE ENTIRE BLOG ON AVAYA.COM HERE]

 

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It all started with a Big Bang! . . . Then a call to 911

FOR AN AUDIO PODCAST VERSION OF THIS BLOG – CLICK HERE

We are likely all familiar with the Simpsons episode, where Homer frantically screams, “Help, Operator! Give me the number for 911!” Although we find this humorous in the United States, there are still quite a few places around the globe that haven’t adopted 911 or 112 (found deployed across the European Union) as their primary mechanism to reach local emergency services. In a recent article published by the Samoa Observer over the holidays, 911 has just been adopted there, to help alleviate the confusion caused by Samoa’ s multiple emergency numbers .

Happy Birthday 911!

Coming on February 9th of 2018, the United States will be celebrating 50 years of this life-saving emergency number. This small town in northwestern Alabama took the prize to be the first community delivering this service when Alabama Speaker of the House, Rankin Fite officially inaugurated the system at 2 PM with a call to 911 that was answered by Congressman Tom Bevill at the Haleyville Police Department, where that historic red phone is still on display under glass case.

Why a Special Number?

Prior to the existence of any emergency number, such as 999 in the UK, 000 in Australia, 112 in Europe, or 911 in the United States, the purpose of the number remains the same worldwide. Even today in Samoa, Minister of Communications and IT, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i was quoted stating that the primary reason to implement 911 was to, “[move] from three different emergency numbers (994; 995; 996) to one particular number which is 911.”

In most emergency districts, emergency services is broken up into three separate areas. Police, fire, and EMS or medical. With many agencies acting independently from each other in the past, the dispatching and command-and-control of those services also operated independently. But, with most other things, consolidation at certain levels makes sense from cost efficiency as well as workflow optimization. Because of this, it’s very common to see multiple services tightly coupled from a dispatch perspective. In Europe, many agencies remain in their silos for command-and-control, however they have removed the decision making process from public view by implementing a single 112 emergency number that terminates in a specialized center that is able to triage the situation, provide preliminary pre-arrival instructions, and seamlessly transfer to the appropriate agency based not only on the type of emergency, but the location of the incident. This similar model has also been deployed in many areas of the United States, where a County facility will provide centralized call taking for all emergency services, then coordinate with the appropriate agencies as needed.

What about Next-Generation Emergency Services?

With NG Emergency Services literally right around the corner, you may wonder if governments like Samoa are making a smart investment deploying a legacy environment today, and not waiting a few months for the “latest and greatest.” That dilemma, is one that every agency fights, and has been fighting, for several years. Fortunately, the industry can learn through its many years of experiences bringing technology to its current state. For example, when I started in telecom in the mid-80s, I was introduced to ATTMail, an internal email system that AT&T used to communicate between sales reps and their distributors. Being an installer, I saw little use of the tool, but I know it provided those that scheduled my work a new level of collaboration with the field representatives selling product.

Back then, for all intents and purposes, the Internet didn’t really exist, for the public at least. Connectivity was done through point-to-point dial-up services, and limited to 1200 and 2400 baud modems. As for the content, the emails were all simply ASCII text, keeping payload to a minimum. The use of email didn’t really explode until online services such as CompuServe and AOL became available to the masses, providing some level of connectivity between users. Even then, those communities of interests could easily communicate with each other, but communicating with someone else on a different network proved to be difficult.

Finally, we experience the Internet explosion. This modern day “big bang” provided basic connectivity between just about everyone, and every device. But the emergency networks remained as one of the last holdouts, citing fears of cybersecurity and total anarchy if hackers got into the system. While we have seen some minor exploitation of emergency networks across the globe, for the most part, the extensive forensics that are deployed on the network that track financial and government facilities, have proven to be very useful in quickly identifying the culprits of any attack, as well as quickly block and tackling the network, minimizing risk.

The NENA i3 framework for NG Emergency Services not only addresses the network itself, but addresses the transition from legacy networks, as well as the interoperability with legacy networks, knowing that there is no magic “switch” that can be flipped to move from one to the other.

Therefore, countries like Samoa, can purchase with confidence today a new fully compliant NENA i3 NG emergency services PSAP, and connect it to their legacy PSTN network without any worry through a Legacy Network Gateway. Likewise, if a country decides to deploy a NENA i3 NG emergency services ESInet framework, their existing legacy infrastructure can connect on day one through a Legacy PSAP Gateway. NENA i3 already addresses interoperability on both sides of the equation, and in both directions.

END to END Emergency Services at AVAYA ENGAGE

Avaya is a leader in contact center technology, worldwide. We are also a leading provider of Enterprise Communications solutions. Taking our deeply rooted history across the telecom industry, it is no wonder that we have taken that experience and fostered relationships with key partner from our DevConnect program, and formed a synergy of solutions we like to refer to as Avaya Public Safety Open Connect Partners. These partners make up the core framework of the End to End, Avaya Public Safety Solution from the Enterprise to the PSAP, and from Citizens to PSAP, and then extending that further with future connectivity to first responders in the field providing critical information from the people who have the data, to the people who need the data, and in an as needed timeframe, so the information is both actionable and relevant.

We will be showing this LIVE in the main Avaya booth at the Public Safety Pedestal, and interconnected with Select DevConnect Partners Conveyant Systems, Beta 80 International, and Engelbart Software. Through this localized ESINet, we will provide live video and media content from the incident, and from the AVAYA ‘Eye in the Sky” Drone to not only the dispatcher, but to the first responder through collaborative communication.