Today, we live in what many consider, “The Age of Technological Enlightenment.” Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every two years, and the cost of a computer is halved during that same time. Given this trend, while the speed of computers will increase each year the cost of them drops considerably.
In our lives, we have seen this in several technology markets – computers, networking, and telephony. Growing up, I had only seven television channels, with most programming in black-and-white. I can still remember in the mid-60s getting our first color television set, yet only being able to see some of the programming delivered in color. Many of my favorite shows, remained in black-and-white. When I look at next-generation 911 technology, I find that television is an excellent comparison that explains away many of the questions that most people have.
Let’s look at the building blocks of how a TV is produced and delivered to your home, and then compare that to next-generation 911 networks and the equipment required to achieve this new emergency service. Starting in the television studio is the television camera that captures the image. If the camera is black-and-white, only a black-and-white image would be captured. If a color television camera is used, the information is a color television picture.
The next primary component in the broadcast chain is the television transmitter. If the television transmitter is capable of transmitting only a black-and-white signal, then the black-and-white TV image is transmitted in its natural form, however, if a color image is presented to it, the image is down-converted into a black-and-white image before being transmitted. Conversely, if the television transmitter is capable of a color television broadcast, both the black-and-white camera image and color camera image are passed in their original state.
The next component is the television set itself in your home. If you have a black-and-white TV, regardless of how the image was captured, and regardless of how it was transmitted to your home, the image that you see will be black and white. On the other hand, if you have a color television set, a color camera was used, and a color TV transmitter sent you the signal, you will receive a color picture. The caveat here is that you can only receive the lowest common format – but as the color network builds to completion, your job is already done.
Next-generation 911 is very much the same architecture. Instead of the camera, we have the data in the originating Network, the carrier is the TV transmitter, and the TV set is the PSAP. Until each of these components is NG911 capable, the ability to send information from end to end will be limited. But like any good infomercial on TV at 3 o’clock in the morning:
BUT WAIT – THERE’S MOORE!
Fortunately, next-generation 911 is not just REPLACING the legacy E9-1-1 network, the various components are being built in parallel alongside it.
This enables the intersection of the two technologies to intermingle with each other and coexist allowing each element to make use of what it can on either side of the technology curve. The dilemma that it creates in the industry, is that some technology providers either don’t know how or don’t understand NG911. Their tactic is to keep doing it the ‘old way.’
WHY? As new technology makes new capabilities more affordable and more functional (remember Moore’s law) the profit margins become slimmer. That directly translates to there being no financial incentive for legacy solutions to innovate and adopt new capabilities. To them, the impact to their bottom becomes a net loss.
The legacy 911 solutions have become so expensive, customers are being scared away by the price. In fact, just the other day I was speaking to a company that was being pushed into a major reconfiguration of its communications architecture because COVID-19 has forced them to move 80% of their workforce to their homes with IP enabled phones. While they were proactive in providing their employees guidance in the 911 capabilities of their corporate devices, they shared a great concern about hard phones being placed in residences where a spouse or child may call 911. Would they understand the difference? Likely not.
After discussing the wonderful things that NG911 can do to solve the problem, and route the calls properly, they immediately responded with, “Wait a minute! That’s all very cool, but we don’t have the budget for that! What is the least we need to do?”
We then discussed innovation and technology; we talked about how Uber has changed the ride-share model with innovation to reduce costs and we designed a few solutions that not only provided more capabilities, but did so at a lower price point. We solved their compliance problem, we saved them money, and we put the framework in place for NG911 services in their corporate network environment providing them technology protection going forward. What we delivered what is the solution on the information super highway, where the legacy solutions they looked at, only offered them an offramp down a dead-end street.
Enabling 911 dialing on MLTS phones is not only a federal law, but critical in the enterprise to protect the life safety of your visitors and workers. Capturing cell phone 911 call events from smart phones is another technology that the 911inform platform can enable using new Geofence technology. I urge every IT administrator to research or assign someone to research the capabilities that the next-generation emergency services network delivers. Challenge the “norm”, and make sure that whatever you buy is fully explained and meets your expectations.
© 2020, All Rights Reserved, Mark J. Fletcher, ENP
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