West Corporation

Posted on November 5, 2012 by West Corporation 

In Sync with Lync: E911 Emergency Support Now Available for Microsoft Lync 2013!

Lync 2013911 Enable today announced that its award-winning E911 solutions are capable of supporting Microsoft Lync 2013.

With Lync 2013 achieving release to manufacturing (RTM) status, and general availability expected in early 2013, organizations will need to implement a suitable E911 solution that can support Lync’s unique features. 911 Enable complements the inherent E911 functionality of Microsoft Lync – including the new E911 features unveiled in Lync 2013 – to help customers meet E911 regulations and keep employees safe in times of crisis.

To learn more about 911 Enable’s support for Lync 2013, read the press release here.

West Corporation

Posted on November 2, 2012 by West Corporation 

To Text or Not To Text?

It is tragic, really.  The majority of cell phone users believe they can text 9-1-1.  The majority of cell phone users believe their location can be pinpointed on a map when they call 9-1-1.  The majority of cell phone users aren’t sure how their local 911 agencies are funded.  If you don’t know what you can do, who is responding, or what resources they have, it is hard to feel safe.In the U.S., 9-1-1 education starts with the very young.  Pre-school and grade school children are regularly taught to call 9-1-1 for help.  As those children grow up, they soon move to mobile phones where texting is the norm and voice calls are an anomaly.  There is very little 9-1-1 education in middle and high school, and few national campaigns to help people understand that texting 9-1-1 is not generally available.  How are people to learn what will and won’t work if the information is not prevalent?  While progress has been made among carriers and PSAPs, a national approach to Texting 9-1-1 is still over the horizon.

As cell phone users in the know, we own getting the word out.  Please tell your children that, across most of the US, they can’t yet text 9-1-1.  Encourage them to tell their friends.  Please help your parents understand that, should they call from a mobile phone, 9-1-1 needs to know their location.  Please speak out to educate others and save lives.  If we own getting the word out, we can make a difference.

Monica Marics, Senior Vice President, Safety Services – West

West Corporation

Posted on October 26, 2012 by West Corporation 

Public Safety, Step into your Exoskeleton!

Applications, computer and storage cloud services, mobile phones, tablet computers and big data are reshaping the entire consumer economy. Quickly following are business and enterprises around the world. But how will these technologies transform public safety?

Over 50% of all Americans have smart mobile phones. So in any emergency situation, every citizen is armed with eyes, ears and location information to deliver a more complete data picture of what is happening on the ground. Rather than thinking of how we don’t want 24 people to report the same traffic accident, why don’t we see it as 24 more sources of data providing even more timely information from a variety of perspectives? Rather than a 9-1-1 operator with a queue of calls building, can’t all of the location, video and audio information be routed to a public safety computer and storage cloud service?

There is not only more mobile information available, but an increasing amount of fixed data – weather data, building data, and traffic data. Today, WeatherTap provides up to 2MB of radar data every 15 minutes as well as 4MB of satellite information, 2MB of infrared and water vapor data, 1MB of lightning information and 2MB of modeling data for a 10-100 square mile area. That’s  ~10MB every 15 minutes!  In a modern metro area there is also information coming from every traffic intersection. According to Amine Haoui, CEO of Sensys Networks, a city the size of Tucson produces 4GB of intersection information in an hour. Consider also the information coming from modern smart buildings. Again, a city the size of Tucson might have 250 smart buildings. In an emergency you’d be looking at close to 2Gbytes of data per hour.

Now think about a 24-hour crisis and you’re looking at over 100TB of data. Imagine that data stream being fed to a next generation computer and storage cloud service, which ramps up to 10,000 servers to run applications. That stream could predict what direction the fire is moving for the individual firefighter on the ground. It could also inform occupants which side of the building to use for evacuation, and even indicate which side on which floor.  Huge amounts of data could be personalized for city police, state police, EMT, fire, and HAZMAT personnel. This is all technically feasible today.

Some of you may remember the first Aliens movie. At the end of the movie, Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) straps herself into a mechanical exoskeleton, which makes her powerful enough to defeat the mother alien. Well, the next generation public safety systems will provide an information exoskeleton for professional fire, police, emergency medical workers and citizen. This will all ultimately transform the E9-1-1 operator from a call center operator who is doing speech to text translation and hoping they have enough time to get to the next call, to an air traffic controller, or battlefield commander, armed with an information exoskeleton coordinating both professionals, citizens and equipment to guarantee the public’s safety quickly, efficiently and effectively.

Ripley would be impressed.

By Timothy C.K. Chou, Author of “Cloud: Seven Clear Business Models” & Lecturer – Stanford University

West Corporation

Posted on October 19, 2012 by West Corporation 

Information Sharing at the heart of NextGen 9-1-1

From the inception of E9-1-1, information sharing was foundational. Providing telephone company subscriber location information was a first step in using the 9-1-1 system to help responders work more efficiently. We very quickly found ways to share ALI information through other systems such as CAD, Mapping, RMS and for some, Mobile Data in responder vehicles. As we move forward in a data rich society, we need to leverage the capabilities of Next Generation systems to receive and disseminate information to make the Public Safety systems more efficient, effective while keeping responders safe.

9-1-1 as an information source

Conferences and press releases are buzzing with new types of data that will be received as 9-1-1 calls. Even the term “call” is under debate as our industry works to define how we receive data from “any device, anytime, anywhere”. Text to 9-1-1 has had the most scrutiny due to critical needs in the hearing impaired community and high profile incidents where voice calls were not possible. Indeed, a few PSAPs have already elected to receive text messages sent to 9-1-1 within their regions.

However, texting to 9-1-1 is just the forerunner of things to come. While there is discussion on the merits of if and when to accept these types of calls, everyone agrees that data calls are part of the future of 9-1-1. Some data types on the horizon are pictures, video, telematics (car and personal), sensors/devices, subscriber entered data, additional data for address/phone number/person, and smart phone applications. There will be even more as technology progresses.

The reality is that many PSAPs are already accepting some of these data types – just not through 9-1-1 at this point. PSAPs monitor traffic and security cameras; telematics calls are relayed through provider call centers; and subscriber entered data has numerous recent deployments.

We are not creating new emergencies!

One of the concerns often voiced is that these new data types will overload our call takers, making their job even more difficult. If that happens, we’re doing something wrong!  We need to implement solutions that make their jobs more efficient, using new data types to provide usable information to assist with the emergency rather than causing a burden. One thing to remember is that we are not creating new emergencies. We are simply receiving more types of data about existing emergencies. Our goal should be to share this information in a way that makes their work more effective with safer responses.

There is certain to be additional data volume, just as we experienced when multiple cellular users began reporting a single emergency. Next Generation 9-1-1 enables much better tools to manage the volume in a data world than we had for voice calls alone.

Sharing the data with those who need it

PSAPs can set policies for how data can move through their systems automatically. If  additional data arrives with a voice call (such as a picture) we should be able to flag the call taker that the information is available, using appropriate indicators that give type and PSAP-designated urgency. The data should not just pop up! It should be accessed as needed.

Similarly, data that initiates a call can arrive with indicators showing the type of data so a call taker can be prepared to “answer” the call. Each PSAP can determine what data can be automatically shared, which is to be flagged to the call taker first, and how it will move from 9-1-1 to other consumers.

Of course, data security, integrity for court requests and how it is archived for long term storage are also of primary concern. The good news is that, for data, there are already highly secure encryption/compression algorithms and vendors working to provide solutions that have the reliability required for Public Safety.

The future should be better!

Our goal for the future should be to implement solutions that manage the increased amount of information that will come with NG9-1-1 in a manner that meets each PSAP’s unique needs. At the same time, these solutions must also provide sharing tools for telecommunicators, allowing them to effectively utilize data in directing responders to a safer and more efficient response.

By Paul McLaren, Director of Support Engineering, Safety Services – West

West Corporation

Posted on October 17, 2012 by West Corporation 

Security has been notified… But do they know what the emergency is?

Security Desk Notification and MonitoringEnterprise-class E911 solutions ensure that when 911 is dialed, both the call and the caller’s location information are delivered to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). Many of these same solutions can also notify internal security that a 911 call is in progress, with screen pops, emails, or pre-recorded messages.  The alerts usually provide the caller’s extension, location, and name, which can be extremely useful and help to improve response times.

However, even with these alerts, enterprise security teams are still left in the dark as to the nature of the emergency. E911 call monitoring allows enterprise security to listen in on emergency calls originating from their network, providing the context needed to fully assess the situation and implement the appropriate response.

Scenario 1: Emergency where caller can speak

Most calls in an enterprise environment are medical incidents, where fast security response times can save lives.

For example, in the case of a caller experiencing cardiac arrest, waiting for an ambulance to arrive can simply take too long. According to the National Center for Early Defibrillation, “if defibrillation is delayed for more than 10 minutes, survival rates drop to less than 5 percent.” However, organizations have designated staff that are trained in first aid and have access to life-saving defibrillation equipment on-site. If the security person monitoring the call hears that the caller is suffering from cardiac arrest, they can immediately dispatch the nearest first aid person to the caller’s location and have them administer the necessary defibrillation. This rapid response can mean the difference between life and death.

Scenario 2: Emergency where caller is incapacitated

When a 911 caller is incapacitated and silent, providing security staff with monitoring capabilities can be beneficial. Silent calls that come into the PSAP are often assigned a low priority; while the operator may occasionally send the police to investigate, they rarely dispatch an ambulance to a silent call.

To better deal with this type of scenario, E911 call monitoring allows security personnel to barge in on the call when needed. When the security staff person monitoring the call hears the silent line, they can dispatch someone to verify the incident and simultaneously implement the barge-in feature to notify the PSAP that someone on-site is going to investigate. This allows the on-site security staff and PSAP operator to quickly learn about the nature of the incident rather than waiting for a report from dispatched police (if police are even sent). Once armed with this information, the security desk and PSAP operator can better determine and coordinate the appropriate response, ensuring that the necessary help arrives as quickly as possible.

E911 call monitoring is a lifesaving feature that has proven to be invaluable to customers again and again. When monitoring an E911 call, security personnel are automatically placed on one-way mute so the call quality between the caller and the PSAP is maintained and the PSAP does not have to filter out any additional background noise. It provides the security desk staff with valuable contextual information so they can immediately implement an appropriate response, and helps facilitate improved coordination with the PSAP. In fact, over 96% of 911 Enable’s enterprise customers use this feature as one of their security notification tools.

E911 call monitoring is included as a standard feature in all of 911 Enable’s solutions, including the Emergency Routing Service (ERS), Emergency Gateway (EGW), Virtual Emergency Gateway (V-EGW), and Service Provider Emergency Gateway (SP-EGW).

Don’t settle for an E911 solution that doesn’t offer the E911 notification capabilities you need – contact 911 Enable today at 1-877-862-2835 or email to learn how our security notification solutions can provide your organization with better outcomes in emergency situations.

West Corporation

Posted on October 12, 2012 by West Corporation 

9-1-1 GIS Data – Accurate, Complete and Designed for a Specific Purpose

With the transition to Next Generation 9-1-1, the role of geographic information systems (GIS) data transforms to a new level of importance. In our industry, GIS data is primarily used for PSAP mapping and computer-aided dispatch applications that are useful. In most cases, however, they are supplemental tools to help a call taker during an incident. Next Generation 9-1-1 systems and networks utilize GIS data to make 9-1-1 call routing decisions. The GIS data needs to be extremely accurate and always up to date for this specific purpose. To achieve this level of accuracy and completeness, agencies and service providers need to adopt workflow processes that are specific to the 9-1-1 industry without losing sight of fundamental GIS practices.Represent the Real World

Read More >

West Corporation

Posted on by West Corporation 

E911 Presentation Next Week at Lync University

Lync UniversityLync users and enthusiasts in the Houston, TX area won’t want to miss next week’s Lync University event on October 18, presented by Microsoft and hosted by The Via Group.

911 Enable Director Lev Deich will be taking part in the event, presenting a session on E911 for Microsoft Lync. The session will cover Lync’s inherent E911 capabilities, as well as the additional E911 functionality many organizations must implement to meet E911 legislation and keep users safe. Attendees will learn how 911 Enable’s solutions provide the E911 capabilities they require and seamlessly integrate with Microsoft Lync deployments, as well as how to determine their ideal E911 solution based on a series of use case examples.

Lev’s hour-long session starts at 3:00pm CDT. To register, visit Microsoft’s events page.

For more information on 911 Enable’s solutions for Lync, visit our Lync Solution Webpage, or download the E911 for Microsoft Lync Solution Brief.

And don’t forget to register for our upcoming webinar, The Top 5 E911 Challenges facing Microsoft Lync Deployments, taking place on October 31!

West Corporation

Posted on October 5, 2012 by West Corporation 

Smartphones, Smart Apps

You’ve seen the stats – about 53% of American cellphone users now have a smartphone. The Apple App Store carries roughly 700K apps with 30 billion downloaded to date.  Add to that another 675K apps in the Google Play store with about 15 billion downloaded within just 18 months! That’s a lot of Smart!Due to the broad availability and subsequent consumption of these devices and the apps that run on them, our world is quickly changing in ways unimaginable only a few years ago.

Rapid change applies to the world of personal safety too, where there are no fewer than 40 apps available for download. Looking across all these apps, we see some interesting characteristics.  To summarize, consider this “Top Ten” list of the leading capabilities in apps available today:

  • Personal collision detection: uses phone’s accelerometer and algorithms to detect a collision
  • Community Based Policing:  allows posting of suspicious behavior using text, photo, video with ability to receive notifications
  • Closest Automated External Defibrillator (AED):  provides accessibility, directions and instructions
  • Crime Awareness:  proactive security feature set to allow users to view emergency responder activity
  • Walk with Me:  for use in uncomfortable situations where a public safety response is not appropriate (e.g. students crossing campus at night)
  • Location services:  safe driving feature that automatically detects when a user is driving and disables texting function
  • Notifications:  mass notifications, such as on campus or notifications to pre-defined contacts in case of emergency
  • Safety Concierge Services:  weather alerts, nurse lines, poison control, language services
  • Personal information:  enables pre-registered personal information such as health and emergency contacts
  • Text To 9-1-1:  the ability to send an emergency text message directly to 9-1-1.

It’s an impressive list of capabilities that pulls the best out of the technology available, yet the implications of this growing segment of personal safety apps are significant.  Collectively, they have the opportunity to improve a person’s awareness of activities around them, speed response times in emergencies and enable a more specific response geared towards the situation at hand.

While these are worthy benefits, that old adage of, “the devil is in the details” comes to mind.  Apps on the market today range from concepts that are well thought out to those whose descriptions are dangerously misleading.  There seem to be significant knowledge gaps between app developers and public safety concerns. Standards, policies and best practices are not yet in place for app development of public and personal safety features. These capabilities may not be supported with the reliability, availability and network resiliency often associated with public safety-related services.

As an industry, we need to bring the best services and features to market leveraging the best of the technology that is being made available, but always be mindful of doing so in way that considers the needs of stakeholders and ultimately ensures the most effective emergency response!

By John Kearney, VP/General Manager of the Mobility Division, Safety Services – West

West Corporation

Posted on September 28, 2012 by West Corporation 

Creating a Standard Vision for NextGen 9-1-1

Standards provide the foundation for building the future vision of next generation 9-1-1. Applications designed specifically for public safety help agencies respond better and faster. Future systems must help the emergency response community deal with an ever-increasing volume of information from a variety of sources and enable collaboration between diverse providers including 9-1-1 call taking, emergency dispatch, first responders, emergency operations, ancillary functions and more.The world of creating standards is a unique experience where experts from multiple companies join together to define the capabilities needed to solve customer problems or enable desired functions in a cooperative fashion. This participation is critical to ensure that experiences are shared and all interests are represented.

Meeting customer expectations is a balance between delivering new capabilities and waiting for standards to solidify. Businesses must balance the expense and investment to move things forward and stay in lock step with industry standards. And for NextGen 9-1-1, there are various forums where system providers and users are banding together to define the standards needed to establish the foundation necessary to make the NextGen 9-1-1 vision a reality. The primary forums for addressing telecommunications, public safety and 9-1-1 oriented issues are the associations of NENA, APCO, ATIS, and FCC-sponsored activities. Others include 3GPP, TIA, IETF and international forums such as ETSI Emergency Telecommunications (EMTEL).

Move Along, Nothing to See Here
NextGen 9-1-1 capabilities imply a world where systems communicate and exchange a significant amount of information in real time without creating a burden to the users of those systems and services. To make this a vision a reality, the complexities of such an operating environment must be hidden from public safety personnel so they can focus on the important job at hand.

Collaboration is Key
These future systems will need to help public safety and the emergency response community manage an ever-increasing volume of information from a variety of sources—all while enabling the collaboration between 9-1-1 call takers, emergency dispatchers, first responders, emergency operations, ancillary functions and more.

NextGen 9-1-1 call and data processing environment definitions have advanced substantially over the past five years. There are elements of NextGen 9-1-1 deployed today, and there will soon be calls processed according to visionary methods. For example, NextGen 9-1-1 standards will touch various areas such as:

  • Communication devices
  • Data sources
  • Emergency networks
  • Exchange interfaces
  • Information and transaction record storage and retrieval
  • Presentation interfaces

X Marks the Spot
NextGen 9-1-1 utilizes GIS data in ways that go well beyond displaying the location of a wireless call origination on a map. It requires a strong foundation in geographic information system (GIS) technology to change from the way things are done today.

Correct call-processing destination and emergency response will be dynamically determined based on location information and jurisdictional boundaries overlaid together on a map. Such a GIS system and data approach requires significant attention to detail in order to replace the mechanisms that exist in today’s 9-1-1 master street address guide (MSAG). Details and refined standards are needed in some cases, but the framework is sufficient for vendors to provide solutions today.

Netting the Network
Another area critical to the long-term, NextGen 9-1-1 call-processing vision is the evolutionary difference between telecommunication service providers and NextGen 9-1-1 networks or emergency services IP networks (ESInets). The industry is looking at specifications to define an IP-based interface that can deliver location information with call setup instructions. The first step is to simply define an IP interface that can replace today’s legacy time division multiplexed (TDM) technology, and later provide enhanced data including caller location information. These steps allow the industry to provide real incremental value as we move to the NG9-1-1 long-term vision.

More than a Voice
A longer-term vision looks at other forms of request for assistance, or “calls” for help. Standard efforts have started with text messaging to 9-1-1 and machine to machine (M2M) communication scenarios. These early efforts will be available to understand what is possible so public safety authorities can make decisions regarding operation policies and public services.

Beyond the Call
The industry is also looking beyond 9-1-1 call processing toward significant enhancements that will support the integration of information with first responders and post-event analyses. Furthermore, an innovative environment will be established to discover new capabilities for LTE and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) of broadband.

Mission critical communication will be significantly enhanced as vital information is shared with everyone engaged in an emergency event. As public safety networks advance, technology will enhance the ability to effectively use a wealth of information and services in collaboration between participants.

We Have Only Just Begun
The public safety industry is just beginning to establish a new foundation that will provide new and innovative services for public safety and the American public. Attention to standards ensures we create an environment where on-going innovation is possible. The rate of change is rapidly increasing and standards play a critical role in ensuring we achieve all the promises for the next generation of public safety services.

By Michael Nelson, Senior Technical Officer & VP, Safety Services – West

West Corporation

Posted on September 26, 2012 by West Corporation 

E911 challenges for UCaaS/Hosted PBX service providers

Hosted PBX services have been around for a while now and have become increasingly popular with the SMB market in particular, using multi-tenant voice switching platforms from vendors such as BroadSoft. When it comes to E911, the Hosted PBX provider’s requirements are often straightforward:

  • Meet State E911 regulations that apply to MLTS operators, which require that location information delivered to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) be specified to a finer level of granularity than just the customer’s civic address, e.g. to a floor or sub-divided section of areas greater than 40,000sq.ft.
  • Provide emergency calling support inside of and beyond their standard coverage footprint area
  • Automatically validate and provision customer records to ensure locations are civic-valid and properly formatted to display at the PSAP

Hosted PBX providers have usually been able to meet their E911 requirements with a solution that allows them to assign customer Emergency Response Locations (ERLs) to DIDs.  This solution is feasible if the end customer is a small organization with few sites, little to no moves, adds, and changes, and little to no requirements for security notification.

Today, another hosted communications offering is growing in popularity: Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). UCaaS is a single-tenant hosted UC solution that is increasingly being adopted by medium to large enterprises that are making the strategic decision to move more than just their voice services to the cloud. UCaaS providers face the same E911 challenges as Hosted PBX providers, but also must contend with a number of additional E911 issues given the complexity of their offering.

In addition to the challenges of meeting E911 legislation, providing support within and beyond their coverage footprint, and automating location validation and provisioning, UCaaS providers must address several additional E911 challenges:

  1. Larger enterprises will be more inclined to move to a UCaaS solution if it supports the IP phones they already have and/or the UC capabilities they are comfortable with – this often means offering a hosted version of the PBX type they already have (e.g. Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution, Avaya Collaborative Cloud, Microsoft Lync, etc.). UCaaS providers offering more than one PBX vendor’s hosted solution increase their addressable market. However, this makes it essential that they find an E911 solution which supports the various capabilities of the multi-vendor UCaaS platforms they offer, or they risk having to implement and manage multiple piecemeal E911 solutions.
  2. Larger enterprises considering UCaaS expect the same UC features and functionalities as they would receive from an on-premises solution – and this expectation extends to E911. UCaaS providers must be able to provide automatic phone location discovery and tracking of customer IP phones, as well as the on-site security emergency call monitoring, recording, notification and misdial protection features supported by leading on-premises E911 solutions. It is important that UCaaS providers offer comparable E911 functionality to on-premises solutions, as missing these features can serve as a barrier to organizations moving to UCaaS solutions.
  3. UCaaS solution vendors are developing license models which fit the hosted service provider model, as well as usage trends where soft clients can be secondary or principle voice devices. Any E911 solution should support flexible licensing to match different vendor and/or usage models, as well as shared licensing across all UCaaS platforms and customers.

Whether offering hosted PBX or UCaaS, service providers need to assess their E911 liability and required functionality according to their target customer base, and match this with an appropriate E911 solution to lower their costs and remove potential barriers to customer acquisition.

Supporting hosted voice services can be a daunting undertaking – don’t get caught out by E911! To learn more about E911 for hosted PBX and UCaaS, please attend the “E911 for Hosted IP-PBX Providers” panel session at ITEXPO West on Wednesday, October 3, or contact me directly at