[ An audio version of the Blog will be available as a podcast soon ]

Soon, 2020 will be over. We will be looking forward to 2021 as the year of rebirth and hopefuly a new sense of normalcy. While many IT projects have stalled; the rollout of next-generation 911 networks has been progressing quietly at the State level in several areas. These new networks promise public safety some incredible new capabilities. Along with desperately needed agency interoperability, secure connections between agencies can now exist due to the Emergency Services IP network (ESINet). This new IP network not only will enable the functional elements that are North of the network (NG911 enabled Public Safety Answer Points) to ingest additional data, but simultaneously, allow the functional elements South of the network (NG911 enabled Origination Networks) to contribute additional data into the emergency chain of care. The most significant benefit of this topology is that each architectural end is able to develop at its own rate, autonomous to the others. Data will be passed ‘as-is’ wherever possible, and where not, will be converted to a interchangeable compatible format, or made available ‘by a reference URI’ retrievable over standard HTML interfaces. No more proprietary silos locking information away from any system with legitimate access privileges.


Quite simply, it means that no longer are commercial businesses And MLTS owner-operators handcuffed to the archaic and costly methodologies to provide detailed location information. The legacy design never considered device mobility, nor was it upgradable. The capabilities of technology within public safety networks have been stalled since the mid to late 80s when ANI (Automatic Number Identification) was added to the system. Like caller ID in the public network, this merely provided the calling number to the 911 telecommunicator. Armed with this new information, the ability to retrieve a billing record that was associated with that particular number was now possible. This basic functionality worked well, mostly because telephone networks were made up of non-nomadic devices, all with unique telephone numbers. However, the moment that wireless phones entered the market, that process failed miserably. The reason is that location relied on a cross-reference to a tabular database. An additional problem was that minimal capabilities were available for real-time access and updates.

[ An audio version of the Blog will be available as a podcast soon ]

NG911 significantly changes that functional architecture to one where data is dynamic and IP-based. Data no longer must pre-exist at the destination prior to the emergency event. The origination network now has the ability to deliver relevant and actionable information simultaneously with the emergency event request for assistance. The next great challenge for public safety are street addresses. NG911 changes the requirement of a postal related address, by providing a better solution that is geo-spatially based. In legacy systems, the MSAG (Master Street Address Guide) is the routing directive that 911 networks and dispatch systems rely upon. The MSAG denotes where the caller is and the PSAP where the call should be routed geographically. Again, this was a practical solution when emergency calls only were generated from phones, and phones were installed at fixed addresses and assigned to a specific number. Once again technology changes like, mobility, dual service, and the device’s ability to reside in an area that may not even have a physical address make this archaic construct and method problematic at best.


Yesterday’s remedy for the enterprise was simplistic in nature, but maintained the following requirements;

  • Each device will have its own unique telephone number;
  • Each telephone number will have its own unique entry in the public safety database;
  • The enterprise will deploy a 3rd party solution that tracks device mobility;
  • The solution keeps the public safety database in Sync;

[ An audio version of the Blog will be available as a podcast soon ]

While the solution seems simple, it does come at a hefty price, both operationally and physically. Due to excessive capital expenditures required like the servers and software needed to track and scan the network for device location changes and then communicate that back to the core and update the individual records. Quite often, to reduce the monthly operational costs, buildings were broken down into zones. While that lowered the operating expense, it came at the price of accuracy to the individual location. Also, quite commonly found in most environments, the network itself required significant remediation work to ensure that the Ethernet cabling was confined to the zones’ physical boundaries. This typically required physical remediation work before a solution can be implemented, once again raising the cost of safety and protection.


Two challenges exist when conveying information about emergency event. The first is the actual location of the emergency. This creates not only a jurisdictional question, attempting to decide what agency should respond, but more importantly exactly where the response is required. Secondly, is communicating that location at a level of clarity that will ensure the recipient of the information understands exactly where resources are required. For example, GPS coordinates can be extremely accurate, however these are not something that are easily known, and even if they are , are difficult to communicate between individuals. In the past, I’ve talked about What3Words, and the work that they have done to map the planet into 1-meter squares. They then assign a unique three word location identifier, such as my favorite breakfast café at ///clouds.slang.overnight. Keep in mind, the What 3 Words application did not find me. It merely provided an easily communicable Moniker that I could give to anyone. they in turn Could put that identifier into the What3Words application, retrieving the identical 1-meter square where I’m located. While this mechanism is not perfect, due to challenges with language and spelling properly, it is an interesting concept that is being widely accepted globally as it takes into considerations specific locations on the planet without a postal street address, such as the middle of the ocean , or the desert, or the 4th Hut to the North on the 3rd St from the West in an unimproved village in Africa.

[ An audio version of the Blog will be available as a podcast soon ]

W3W is slowly creeping its way into popularity.Some navigation systems are starting to recognize the W3W address identifier (///) in addition to emergency applications like Scotland Based EmergencyLocate. Nick Sutton, founder of the company, is a 112 center manager in Scotland, and was featured on my Podcast recently.


The underlying message here is that a radical change needs to occur. While we don’t need to dispose of Postal Street addresses, we need to stop relying on them as the sole way of communicating, “where I am”, especially in the time of an emergency. Clear, concise, and actionable information is required to speed response of emergency services. In large commercial buildings, the third plane, altitude, comes into significant play. If you look at a 20 story building from the top down, each floor has an identical X-Y coordinate. Until you look at that building from the side, does the Z axis become relevant indicating the floor you’re located on. While not perfect today, The technology to measure altitude and convey that in a meaningful way is becoming possible. Fortunately, next generation 911 networks will be able to handle this data as information they ingest, and information they provide to emergency first responders.

Likewise, the legacy networks and their analog based data points cannot handle this information, and I believe that any money spent on sustaining that environment, is money not well spent. This is precisely why at 911inform, we are focusing on our Location Discovery Service (LDS). We are not relying on Layer 2 connectivity that may or may not be documented. If it exists, we will utilize the information in the capacity it is determined to be correct. Layer 4 information will be considered in a weighted manner as well, and will make up part of the overall assessment of the location data. We will utilized beacon information from IoT devices, including smart phones possessed by a user, and all of this data will be correlated and analyzed to make a weighted determination of the accuracy of location that is being reported. It is not a one size fits all, it is a toolkit of utilities and processes that, when properly used, will provide actionable and relevant information about not only location, but the environmental condition that will guide the response of the appropriate resources to the best of our ability.

[ An audio version of the Blog will be available as a podcast soon ]

Emergency services can no longer be a financial math problem. The levels if acceptable safety can no longer be weighted by the cost burden of a solution. The technology is openly available, and it is time to put it to use. 2021 is a time of rebirth. Fact: NG911 networks are here. We need to build for the future, while incorporating any data available from the past. In doing so, what we cannot afford to do is let that past dictate or restrict our future goals. Life safety solutions are exactly what they are called, and what is more important than that?


Please follow me on Twitter @Fletch911
Be sure to check out my Blogs on: Fletch.TV

© 2020, All Rights Reserved, Mark J. Fletcher, ENP
Reuse and quote permitted with attribution and URL

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