Employees are traveling across the nation to attend meetings and conferences. Businesses are adopting tele-working policies and corporations are allowing teams to meet and brainstorm off-site. However, what happens when one of your remote employees dials 911 from their soft client? Does your organization know where they are? Can you connect them to the help they need in a timely manner? Though the ability for users to work remotely can provide organizations with greater flexibility, connecting these workers to E911 can represent a challenge to an enterprise.
PSAPs have good reason to be concerned about wireless indoor location accuracy. We believe a physical address – not just an X/Y coordinate – is the gold standard for public safety. In addition, our research shows that current solutions like reverse geo-coding provide an incorrect address in approximately 15% of all 9-1-1 calls.
New advancements in Wireless Location Accuracy provide cost-effective strategies utilizing available technologies that can help carriers provide a dispatchable address to PSAPs.
Some carriers now deploy femtocells nationwide; passing the physical address of the subscriber with coverage of 150 meters. When their “personal cell site” is installed, the residential subscriber provides a dispatchable location. GPS data in the femotcell–in real time–provides geo-validation of the address and can detect femtocell movement. This dispatchable location and the X/Y location of the femtocell or handset is delivered to the PSAP and displayed on the call taker’s console without any changes.
Enterprise femtocells often cover definable indoor spaces such as offices and public structures. They are installed by a carrier or the enterprise and can provide a level of accuracy comparable to wireline with a dispatchable address. Devices with GPS can be used to reliably validate the address.
Geo-Relevant Wireless ALI
Using existing technology, geo-relevant wireless ALI provides a dispatchable location associated with the emergency caller. The ALI address data is collected from multiple sources including a user-provided address, public records databases and, potentially, a billing address.
For example, if a caller provides their home address, and the X/Y location shows the call is originating near the residence, it’s very likely that the call is being made from within the residence. In this example, the absence of any GPS coordinates would make it even more likely that a call is originating from inside the residence.
Even an associated address nearby (of a relative or a previously provided address) has extreme value to PSAPs as it provides them with a starting point of investigation. Initial testing indicates that 15-30% of all wireless 9-1-1 calls using this solution can deliver a dispatchable location.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacons and WiFi
BLE and WiFi radios exist in most new smartphones, so this is a low cost solution and ideal for residential applications. Dedicated 9-1-1 beacons can provide highly accurate and manageable dispatchable locations. An attractive feature of this option is that BLE beacon or WiFi addresses can be stored in the National Emergency Address Database (NEAD) and passed to the PSAP at the time of the call.
Handset Assisted Indoor Location – Location Fusion
We are excited about a development in wireless 9-1-1 that would be forward-compatible with any new smart device enhancements. Intrado is now testing the ability of smartphones to sense satellite signals along with nearby WiFi access points and BLE beacon locations to narrow the location for callers using enabled devices. This solution blends location technologies (such as commercial location detection used by retail stores) in a secure, always-on mode. Implementation of this technology could potentially support VoIP, Voice over Wireless LAN, VoLTE, and CDMA/UMTS voice.
There isn’t currently a single, standalone technology that meets all of the requirements of the new FCC rules. The future of location accuracy depends on the convergence of a several technologies working in tandem to deliver a physical address.
To learn more about the FCC’s ruling and the technologies outlined here, view our recent Wireless Location Accuracy webinar here.
Earlier this month, I spoke at a webinar, Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Forward: Advancements in Wireless Location Accuracy. If you missed the live broadcast, we discussed the FCC’s new Fourth Report and Order concerning wireless E9-1-1 location accuracy, and provided an overview of current and emerging solutions to help carriers comply with the new regulations in a cost-effective way. Here are 10 things you should know about the new regulations:
- The ruling introduces the concept of “dispatchable location” as the gold standard for public safety while also setting forth improved horizontal location requirements.
- 40% of all wireless 9-1-1 calls within 2 years
- 50% of all wireless 9-1-1 calls within 3 years
- 70% of all wireless 9-1-1 calls within 5 years
- 80% of all wireless 9-1-1 calls within 6 years
- Non-nationwide carriers receive extensions to the 5-year and 6-year deadlines mentioned above (by 6 months and 1 year, respectively) based upon the timing of VoLTE deployment in their networks.
- Within 3 years, all carriers must deliver uncompensated barometric pressure data (for calls originating from capable devices).
- Carriers must develop a Z-axis solution within 6 years. Both uncompensated barometric pressure data and Z-axis data are somewhat controversial given that an altitude coordinate without a fixed starting point (such as sea level) may not be of practical use for most PSAPs. Non-nationwide carriers have an additional year to meet these requirements.
- Performance of location accuracy will be measured based on live 9-1-1 call data.
- Carriers serving any portion of a test city (San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver/Front Range, Philadelphia, and Manhattan Borough) have 18 months, after March 2015, to report aggregate data of the location technology used.
- The ruling establishes the National Emergency Address Database (NEAD), a centralized database for wireless carriers.
- Carriers are required to provide a location within 30 seconds, as well as meet a confidence level of 90% for E9-1-1 calls.
- These new FCC requirements do not replace existing Phase II mandates concerning outdoor calls.
The positive news for carriers is that it is possible to provide a dispatchable location in a cost-effective way.
In Wireless Location Accuracy Blog – Part 2, we’ll take a closer look at WiFi, Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons, small cells and other promising technologies that we think will help wireless carriers precisely locate their indoor wireless subscribers in an emergency.
Today, over 70% of 9-1-1 calls are made from a wireless device; it stands to reason that a very large percentage, if not the majority, of those calls are made from indoor locations. The FCC has witnessed this steady evolution in wireless calling behavior and recently introduced new standards that require CMRS providers to improve the location they provide to public safety for 9-1-1 calls.
The FCC’s landmark Fourth Report and Order which outlines new wireless E911 location accuracy requirements establishes an aggressive timeline for carriers to improve location accuracy and deliver a dispatchable location for 9-1-1 callers. Several solutions are in development to help carriers meet these new requirements – solutions designed to deliver a dispatchable location for virtually every wireless 9-1-1 call. These services utilize techniques and technology that just a few short years ago were not available or were too early in their development to deliver locations accurate enough for public safety use.
A combination of data sources and technologies can significantly improve indoor location accuracy and identify the caller’s address for wireless 9-1-1 calls. Together these services will enhance emergency responder dispatch accuracy and reduce the time required to serve those in need. The technology is available to improve location accuracy for indoor callers but it will take collaboration and partnership across the industry to meet the FCC’s new indoor location standards. Together, we can redefine wireless 9-1-1 location accuracy and save lives.
If you are a CMRS provider and would like to learn more about what we are doing to improve 9-1-1 caller location accuracy, I encourage you to participate in our upcoming webinar on April 7, Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Forward: Advancements in Wireless Location Accuracy.
The webinar will address new location accuracy standards and what is being required of all CMRS providers. We will also discuss specific timelines and milestones of the FCCs Fourth Report and Order, as well as current efforts to help CRMS providers identify and deliver on the requirements for dispatchable location.
On November 14, 2014, the four largest U.S. wireless carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon) and two key industry groups (APCO, and NENA) announced they reached consensus on a plan to improve wireless location accuracy for both outdoor and indoor environments that they will present to the FCC.
This is big step in the right direction!
The consensus plan proposes:
- 1 Year: Create a technology test bed.
- 2 Years: Obtain location fix using heightened location accuracy technologies for 40% of wireless 9-1-1 calls that provide a dispatchable location or x,y within 50 meters.
- 3 Years: Obtain location fix using heightened location accuracy technologies for 50% of wireless 9-1-1 calls that provide a dispatchable location or x,y within 50 meters.
- 5 Years: Obtain location fix using heightened location accuracy technologies for 75% of VoLTE wireless 9-1-1 calls that provide a dispatchable location or x,y within 50 meters.
- 6 Years: Obtain location fix using heightened location accuracy technologies for 80% of VoLTE wireless 9-1-1 calls that provide a dispatchable location or x,y within 50 meters.
To put this in context, consider that earlier this year the FCC put forth a Notice of Public Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing increased location accuracy standards and urged that industry participants bring forth their expertise to collaborate in the industry-wide discussion. From the onset, the initial proposed standards were viewed by many industry stakeholders as being too aggressive to achieve in the given timelines.
The consensus plan, while being more conservative in terms of the percentage of location fixes than the FCC’s NPRM, spotlights “dispatchable location”. This is a very important detail because public safety does not dispatch to an x,y coordinate. They need to dispatch to a location and this plan emphasizes that very critical point. The plan also states the utilization of multiple location technologies including Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth®. We couldn’t agree more that to solve the very difficult problem of accurately finding a 9-1-1 caller in an indoor environment (and providing a dispatchable location) will require leveraging several existing and emerging technologies.
We applaud the carriers, APCO and NENA for coming forward with a plan that sets a stake in the ground for an aggressive but realistic future location accuracy goal. Having a well defined goal and evaluation criteria creates an open and competitive environment that encourages many vendors to develop and test solutions that can help the carriers meet their goals and provide better location accuracy to public safety.
We look forward to continuing to partner with our carrier customers to help them meet the goals put forth in the consensus plan.