Michael Finneran
Michael F. Finneran, is President of dBrn Associates, Inc., a full service advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobility; services...
Read Full Bio >>

Michael Finneran | April 28, 2017 |


RapidSOS Fires Up New Idea for Wireless E911

RapidSOS Fires Up New Idea for Wireless E911 This startup wants to take a page from Google Maps to solve the location accuracy problem that plagues wireless 911.

This startup wants to take a page from Google Maps to solve the location accuracy problem that plagues wireless 911.

Seventy percent of 911 calls are now made from mobile phones, according to the FCC. Unfortunately, Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), or 911 centers, are still geared toward the 1960s-era telephone network on which everything was connected with wires and a static database could be used to determine the caller's location. Determining location is far more challenging for mobile phones, particularly if the caller is indoors.

The FCC has proposed improvements, but location accuracy for mobile phones still falls far short of what users can get from Google Maps, Waze, and any number of readily available consumer apps. The FCC's current location requirements for wireless E911, which date to February 2015, address horizontal and vertical location accuracy. The horizontal requirements state: Wireless service providers must provide 1) dispatchable location (described as "a long-term objective"), or 2) x/y location within 50 meters, for the following percentages of wireless 911 calls:

  • Within 2 years: 40% of all wireless 911 calls
  • Within 3 years: 50% of all wireless 911 calls
  • Within 5 years: 70% of all wireless 911 calls
  • Within 6 years: 80% of all wireless 911 calls

This is far better than the previous requirements, which called for accuracy of 50 to 300 meters and delivered within six minutes, but the deployment timetable smacks of the 1960s.

Even in his statement announcing the requirements, then FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote, "We all know how commercial location-based services like Uber can find their users reliably and consistently. If we can have an app that gets a car service to the right door, we certainly should be able to get 911 to the right door consistently and reliably."

Now, at last, a startup is ready to take on that challenge, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Wheeler has signed on as an official advisor to the startup, called RapidSOS, with additional former FCC chairmen Julius Genachowski and Dennis Patrick signed on as investors. RapidSOS's idea is to use the phone's GPS along with triangulation among cell towers and Wi-Fi hot spots to get the accuracy down to a few meters; this is essentially the same technique in use by Google Maps.

RapidSOS's 30-year-old founder Michael Martin came up with the idea after he thought he was being followed while walking home in New York City and so considered calling an Uber. In 2014, he and co-founder Nick Horelik launched a 911 app, called Haven, and then set off on a cross-country tour of PSAPs, as reported in the WSJ article. In talking to more than 100 E911 specialists, Martin determined that his original idea of having a phone app would be impractical given the diversity found among the nation's 6,500 or so PSAPs, he said. So the company switched its focus to developing a database integrated with the systems from companies like Motorola Solutions, which is putting $14 million into the venture, and Airbus DS Communications, WSJ reported.

Since the app idea won't fly, RapidSOS has approached Apple and Android maker Alphabet to see if they would modify their software so location information forwards to the RapidSOS database when a phone dials 911. If they agree -- decisions yet to come -- the PSAP would then access the location information from the RapidSOS database, WSJ reported. In essence, the goal is to integrate the capability natively into the phone rather than going over the top with an app.

While the service would essentially be free to users and PSAPs, RapidSOS's plan is to charge car manufacturers and alarm companies that would be able to provide precise location information in the event of an emergency.

The end result is that a far more accurate version of this important public safety requirement could be implemented in a fraction of the six-year span outlined in the current requirements. Of course, most PSAPs have no means of receiving texts, a potentially vitally important mode for individuals in dangerous situations in which they need to remain silent.

This is just one more example of consumer technologies leading the way, and how the timeframes are changing for the adoption of these technologies.

Follow Michael Finneran on Twitter and Google+!
Michael Finneran on Google+


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.