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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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.

 

 

1461 Days of Mourning

Today, I gladly turn my blog over to a man,  friend and a father who suffered the worst tragedy possible. For the past 4 years, I have been educating, lobbying, and pleading with legislative leaders and technical authorities to recognize and promote the correction of a terrible issue that is simple, and affordable to fix.  At the core of this problem is Hank Hunt, a simple east Texas Cowboy/Photographer that loved his daughter like I have never seen before. The story is a simple one and can be found at http://KariHuntFoundation.com where you can self-educate, and even offer to help if so inclined.

December 1st marks 4 years since my daughter was murdered.

Taken in a brutal way by someone she thought would never do what he did. He lied, he mislead, he tricked and lured her to a small room in a hotel where, once he knew she was determined to leave him, he asked for one last hug. That was the way he did it. She willingly let him put his arms around her, thinking, hoping this would finally seal it for him. Instead, the hug turned to a grab and hold with one arm while the other arm began stabbing her, relentlessly. She screamed to her oldest daughter, 9 years old at the time to call 911. She also screamed, “Brad you’re killing me!” He didn’t care, that was his goal. Her 9 year old immediately began dialing 911 from the hotel room phone. All she heard was static, and her mother screaming, as she continued to dial 911, a simple number created to reach help in an emergency. Nothing, she tried a total of four times but not knowing that at some hotels you need to dial an access number to get an “outside line” such as a “9” then the number you are calling, she never was answered. Since then, I along with 100’s of others have fought to change this and we are making progress, I feel confident we will see Kari’s Law a reality. Yesterday, I discovered that the Dispatchers, (call takers) at our local 911 call centers were once again denied having the classification of “1st Responders” instead they will continue to be classified as “Clerks” “Clerical”. Why? They are trained to assess the situation, determine what is happening, initiate immediate dispatch and continue with life saving instructions all without seeing the problem such as those who arrive at the scene with as much knowledge as they can get from the very “clerk” that answered the call, asked the appropriate questions and assessed the situation with life-saving knowledge they have trained for. I firmly believe that had my granddaughter gotten an answer that day the “Clerk” would have known the words to say that very well could have saved my daughter if not, the help she so desperately needed would have arrived long before she died allowing a greater chance for survival. Are Dispatchers, Telecommunicators, call takers 1st Responders? I think so! Besides, when the people currently classified as 1st Responders return from a call aren’t there reports being written and filed? Doesn’t that make them “Clerical”?

Hank Hunt – Kari’s Dad

Hank, you have my deepest sympathy for your loss. Your entire family has suffered for the past 1461 days, and there is nothing I or anyone else can do to prevent that or even eliminate that from continuing. What I CAN DO, and what I will commit to you is the following:

I will continue to use everything in my power to help you on your mission to ensure no other child is ever put in the situation where the phone in front of them will not dial 9-1-1 to reach emergency service dispatcher’s – America’s FIRST 1st responders.

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911 for Christmas? Think Twice BEFORE you buy

An Audio Podcast version of this Blog is available on the AVAYA PODCAST NETWORK

Last year, a very popular gift for the holiday season was a “911 Emergency Pendant” from a large television shopping retailer. It was advertised as a “lifesaving product”, and targeted at those who were living in, or had loved ones residing in a senior living establishment. It was also targeted at those living at home alone, clearly pulling at the heartstrings of those watching the broadcast. The unit was advertised as one having a single purchase price, which was just below $100 with their special $50 off offer, and the only one in the world that had no monthly fee for service, and the device worked “anywhere in the country”.

Being someone in the 911 industry, and understanding at a deep level how 911 works, I found this product a little hard to believe. Obviously, if it works anywhere, cellular technology would be required to provide service “anywhere in the country”. If cellular service was in use, there would be no possible way to provide that service, and included in a one-time purchase price that was less than $100.

To me, it became very clear what was happening here. Since June of 1996, an FCC report and order has mandated that cell phones making 911 emergency calls must be routed to the Public Safety Answer Point (PSAP)  without any interception by the carrier for credit checks or other validation procedures. This is commonly known as the NSI (Non-Service Initialized) rule. The origin of the bill had excellent merit. With the massive popularity of cellular phones, and the regular upgrade cycle from users, the number of devices left over from previous plans grew exponentially. As a case in point, I have three of them sitting on my desk in front of me as I write this.

It was decided that since cell phones were still uncommon with the general public, these spare phones would make excellent gifts to those who were financially less fortunate. With the NSI rule in place, the devices could be distributed to the financially needy, spouses who were victims of abuse, and a quick inexpensive panic button for anyone who needed to reach 911.

It wasn’t long before this rule became exploited by those looking to profit from the emergency services industry. Low cost, inexpensive chipsets could be manufactured and placed in a cheap plastic housing for just a few dollars, and Viola!  You have an emergency “panic button” style device able to call 911! So what’s wrong with this picture?

The main problem is, the 911 network, and 911 PSAP’s were not designed to deal with calls from these types of devices. Since the devices are NSI devices with no service plan, they have no telephone number. Since they have no telephone number, they fall outside of the operational model of the cellular 911 network. Some of the problems that become quickly apparent:

  • Location information is often unavailable.
  • If location is available, it’s often the cell tower and not the device.
  • If the user doesn’t know where they are, 911 can’t accurately locate them.
  • There is no telephone number, so a call back is impossible.

 

  • The device may not reach the proper PSAP.

 

With all of these potential failures, is this really something you want to put into the hands of a loved one? The ABC12 News Team in Emmet County Michigan found out that the one PSAP in northern Michigan decided they were not going to go down without a fight.  They resorted to Social Media by posting on their Facebook page exposing their thoughts through a warning about the device that was claiming to help people contact 911.

The Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet Central Dispatch Authority reported that their test of the pendant did not work and urged residents to directly dial 911 reach authorities during an emergency. They detailed the situation where a local resident brought the device in trying to get help activating it after unsuccessful attempts on his own. Tests from the residents home, the 911 PSAP parking lot, and even from inside the 911 center itself, all failed to work as promised. The device did not provide any location information to the 911 center, so if the caller is unable to speak, or doesn’t know where they are, dispatchers would not be able to help them. The CCE Central Dispatch Facebook Page is available at http://facebook.com/CCE911