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911 Update: All About Location, Location, Location: Page 2 of 2

Point Me to Cubicle 2C-231

The matter of what constitutes “dispatchable location information” is constantly debated, as 911 authority Mark Fletcher, Avaya’s chief architect worldwide for public safety, pointed out. “The first thing to consider is the intended recipient of that information. Internal responders have different points of reference than do external responders. Cubicle 2C-231 may be easily cross-referenceable by an internal resource; however, an external resource, unfamiliar with the mapping criteria, would be completely in the dark, despite the ‘accuracy’ of the location information,” he recently reminded me.

Obviously 911 call location is as critical to the caller as the first responder, noted Dan Henry, director of government affairs at the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), in a recent conversation. “Between 70 and 80% of calls made to 911 originate from mobile devices and getting accurate location information is essential. However complex the challenges of mobile location accuracy, identifying actual location from VoIP systems can be more difficult, because instead of being yards off, inaccuracies can be hundreds -- or even thousands -- of miles off,” he said.

As Fletcher noted, the problem is exacerbated when the number of reportable endpoints is an unmanageable quantity. “This is where workflow or the operational procedures become the critical components. What do external responders need to report in order to get the police, fire, or ambulance resources to respond to the right entrance to a building as quickly as possible? How do they gain access to that facility? How do first responders know where cubicle 2C-231 is actually located?” he said, adding, “the problem goes well beyond the quantity and quality of data. The essential challenge is that whatever data is presented must be meaningful and actionable to the person receiving it.”

And then there’s one other issue. Recognizing that location-specific information is valuable, what kind of expenses will providers, and those they’ll pass the charges along to -- i.e., end users -- incur? These expenses will relate not only to setting up the initial database for cross-referencing locations and station IDs, but also to maintaining the information so that it is accurate at all times.

As to whether the NPRM requests too much information, Chris Carver, NENA’s PSAP operations director, told me: “Sometimes FCC reports and orders and government actions do not serve as important a role in providing solutions as they do in stimulating innovation toward new products. The current FCC is fairly adamant about not prescribing specific technologies to fix problems. The NPRM, and FCC action generally seeks to define the problem, but how it’s solved is up to the market.” This approach, he added, “provides an opening for innovators to address public safety challenges.”