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Posted on May 26, 2015 by West Corporation 


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State of the Industry: Wi-Fi Device and UC Adoption Alters E9-1-1 Strategies

With more and more devices connecting over Wi-Fi, enterprises need to be able to rely on proven strategies

As wireless desk phones proliferate and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) revolution continues to pick up steam, enterprises are discovering that an E9-1-1 strategy for Unified Communications adoption must now include a strategy for devices connecting over Wi-Fi. This State-of-the-Industry post describes the challenges of wireless Unified Communications (UC) for E9-1-1 for voice planners and provides an introduction to future installments of our special Enterprise Wireless UC E9-1-1 Strategy Guide series that includes a webinar.

The Challenges of UC Adoption

Integrating UC with Wi-Fi desk phones and mobile devices is more than simple call forwarding. For those looking to extend UC to their mobile users and implement wireless handsets, one of the critical first steps is to determine a wireless E9-1-1 strategy.

The following trends are apparent in the industry, and must be taken into consideration by UC voice planners when determining their E9-1-1 strategy:

  • Enterprise voice is changing at breakneck speed with BYOD and wireless desk phones leading the charge. In short, employees are connecting to voice networks wirelessly and in an increasing variety of ways. This puts new pressure on UC voice planners to meet the unique challenges of wireless voice technologies.
  • On-site security personnel are struggling to locate emergency callers when calls are placed from devices connected via Wi-Fi, due to imprecise and/or inaccurate location information. However, on-site location awareness has become paramount in enterprise E9-1-1 strategy.
  • Enterprises are deploying their Wi-Fi networks outside the firewall. With Cisco Collaborative Edge driving the move towards VPN-less solutions, UC voice planners need to assess the impact on E9-1-1 solutions.
  • On-site notification and alerting capabilities continue to rise in importance, as an effective way to locate wireless 9-1-1 callers, and properly triage an effective emergency response.

Deployment Factors to Consider

The Changing Face of Wireless

Enterprise voice is changing at an unprecedented rate. UC voice planners know that extending collaborative tools such as IM and presence to BYOD devices and wireless desk phones is not an easy task. Multiple operating systems, and management headaches caused by joint-department initiatives (wireless/voice) are only the tip of the iceberg. A thorough and complete E9-1-1 strategy for wireless UC voice is becoming a “must-have” for wireless UC planners hoping to manage change effectively, while keeping employees safe.

Location Tracking for Wireless UC Devices

In enterprise environments, emergency responders depend on timely and accurate caller location data to quickly locate emergency callers. For devices connected via Wi-Fi, several location tracking approaches are commonly available on the market, with broad variations in location granularity and accuracy. These differences can end up being crucial, as on-site security desk staff and emergency responders often succeed or fail based on the accuracy of the location data with which they are armed.

Enterprise UC voice planners must include location tracking solutions for these wireless UC endpoints as part of their E9-1-1 strategy.

Part 2 of this series will provide a deeper dive into these technologies, to help you choose the solution that is right for your organization.

Outside the Firewall Location Awareness (VPN-less Enterprise Access)

With Cisco Collaborative Edge driving the move towards VPN-less connectivity, Wi-Fi is being deployed outside the firewall to preserve the integrity of the enterprise network, especially in light of the BYOD phenomenon. However, this game-changing move outside the firewall has serious implications for E9-1-1 that must be addressed by your E9-1-1 strategy.

UC voice planners should move cautiously in this area when developing their E9-1-1 strategy. Not all E9-1-1 vendors support complex, “outside the firewall” UC deployments, leaving Wi-Fi-connected users without E9-1-1 coverage. This may turn out to be a deal breaker for many UC voice planners.

Part 3 of our series will provide  a description of how “outside the firewall” solutions break E9-1-1 and what can be done to fix it.

On-site Security Desk Staff

More and more enterprises are implementing technologies to engage their on-site security teams in emergency response procedures, as these individuals are best-positioned to provide an immediate response to 9-1-1 calls from on-site UC devices. However, on-site personnel need to be armed with the appropriate information to help them both quickly determine the location of emergency callers, and then triage emergency response efforts with dispatchers and responders.

When it comes to the proliferation of wireless UC endpoints, without solutions that empower on-site security desk personnel, emergency dispatchers and responders are often forced to work with inaccurate or misleading location information and emergency response efforts suffer markedly.

UC voice planners need to consider the role of on-site security desk staff in emergency response procedures, and ensure that they are armed with the best tools available.

The final installment of our series will review all of the critical components of an E9-1-1 strategy including the crucial need for a well-coordinated on-site response, driven by security desk staff that are empowered with the best tools for the job.

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