AI for Public Safety

It is no great secret that I am a total advocate for technology related advances for our nation’s Public Safety professionals. When it comes to the FIRST 1st Responders that provide the initial level of security for the public, the need for advancement could not be more relevant. Regardless of what you call these dedicated folks; Communications Officers, Dispatchers, or Call Takers, their job is becoming increasingly more and more difficult as we pile on not just the volume of citizens that can reach out to them, but now the increased ways citizens can communicate, using nearly any device or modality.

Text to 911 ≠ NG911

Some industry leaders equate the rollout of Text to 911 to the evolution of NG911 multimedia communications. I’m not sure that I really agree on that. They often point out the painfully slow adoption rate by citizens, as well as the slow adoption of the technology in 911 centers nationwide. For me, this was no great surprise, as for nearly a decade we have stood by  and watched as county by county PSAPs were added to the FCC’s master list. With over 6,100 PSAPs in the US, rollout was understandably slow, and the true benefit was never realized. Why? In my personal opinion, the deployment was controlled by the carriers and implemented as a business model, not a solution-based capability. The actual services were often limited, wrought with technical problems and lacked the attention to critical details such as location, one of the mainstays of the Public Safety industry. In fact, in most cases, location information was never actually delivered to the PSAP, and was only used by the network to decide the routing of the session to an appropriate PSAP.

“Hey Google . . . “

The latest innovation buzzword in the industry is AI, or Artificial Intelligence. But when you think about it, by definition, AI has actually been around for a long time, since the evolution of the computer. The very first mechanical computer or automatic computing engine concept was conceptualized as far back as 1822 by Charles Babbage. It was at that time Babbage began work on the Difference Engine, and it is considered to be the first automatic computing machine.


 Today, many of us think of AI as being more than just an oversized calculator. Intelligence has a connotation of the ability to cognitively reason and then learn, providing a layer of self-governed decision-making capabilities where decisions are made based on fact and analytics and not emotional response. This brings to light something that is likely the biggest fear of AI naysayers . . .

The Terminator Paradigm

Admittedly, my biggest personal fear of AI is the Terminator Paradigm. If AI was left to grow and learn unfettered by human intervention, these super intelligent and logical entities would quickly come to the rational conclusion that humans are dangerous to the growth and sustainability of the planet, and therefore attempt to eliminate us. This is the entire premise of the Terminator movie series, and it likely has some validity to it. Fortunately, humans will likely remain in control and not implement full Artificial Intelligence, but an iteration of it that I call:

Assistive Intelligence – The New AI

The real value of Artificial Intelligence is the ability of technology to provide empirical decision-making guidance based not only on factual data points, but historical data. This is where ‘intelligence’ comes into play; taking past history into consideration and allowing the process of machine-learning to take place. Putting this in the premise of Public Safety and the call takers, no longer do they need to fear the possibility of being overloaded with information or inundated with so much data they will miss critical indicators needed for them to make a decision. The new AI, Assistive Intelligence, will help them sort through the masses of information presented to them, quickly locating the relevant bits of information that are buried within and germain to the present situation.

Re-spinning Technology for Tomorrow

One of the many valuable features that the Avaya Contact Center offers is something called Whisper Page. This feature allows you to intrude on another user and be heard by them without being able to hear the user’s existing call which is not interrupted.

Original Artwork Copyright © 2019, Mark J. Fletcher

For example, as shown above: User A is on a call with user B. When user C intrudes on user A, they can be heard by user A but not by user B who can still hear user A.

The content of the Whisper Page can be audio from an AI Engine with specific advice to the call taker based on the context of the call as determined by a Speech to Text analytics engine.

One use case currently being developed by an Avaya DevConnect partner is the detection of a stroke condition based on specific speech patterns. A Whisper Page can alert the call taker to the condition, and then direct them to take on a specific list of questions suggesting the best course of action to take. The difference here is that the human (a.k.a. the Call Taker) remains in control of the situation and has the final decision-making authority. The AI tool is merely automating the Quality Assurance (QA) that is likely already taking place. What we have added is increased efficiency with the ability to do real-time QA providing instant feedback to the call taker.

The moral of the story? Understand and embrace technology. Allow it to contribute to your current capabilities and enhance them. Just think twice if the company name is Skynet.

Follow me on Twitter @fletch911
Read my other Public Safety Blogs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s