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Nov 1-2, 2023

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In recent years, the FCC has strengthened its requirements to ensure the availability of accurate location information during 9-1-1 calls. From “dispatchable location” to z-axis information, the Commission is pushing wireless network operators nationwide to adopt technologies that can help first responders locate callers more efficiently in an emergency.

In this episode of RapidSOS Insider, our host Dave Sehnert, was joined by GeoComm’s VP of Innovation, John Brosowsky and Market Manager, Dan Craigie, as they took a deep dive into the different types of location data available to emergency services, discussed the ways to access this information, and shared use cases where next-generation technologies can empower faster, more intelligent incident response.

WEBINAR ON-DEMAND: RapidSOS Insider Episode 5 – All You Need to Know about Z-Axis Location. Watch on-demand now.

What is z-axis location?

Z-axis location is the vertical location of a wireless 9-1-1 caller. Establishing z-axis location information has been an ongoing effort by the Federal Communications Commission to improve location data available to 9-1-1 telecommunicators when a call originates from a wireless device. For instance, in a large building with multiple floor levels, or other kinds of structures and locations with a lot of verticality, it can be very useful to know where a 9-1-1 caller is located in the vertical aspect. There are multiple ways to communicate z-axis data: height above ellipsoid, height above main sea level, height above terrain, barometric pressure, and also “human z” expressed as a floor level or range of floors in a building.

Why is z-axis information important?

The z-axis information helps eliminate the need for a floor-by-floor search in a situation where the caller doesn’t know what floor they’re on, isn’t able to find out, can’t speak or no one is nearby to help them identify their exact location within a multi-floor building. 

Dan addresses how 9-1-1 telecommunicators are accessing accurate location and z-axis information today to find callers within multi-story buildings and how this is evolving. In some cases ECCs are receiving Uncompensated Barometric Pressure (UBP) data. Increasingly they are gaining access to height above ellipsoid data, a raw geodetic z-axis measurement. 

The panelists then discuss some of the nuances of height above ellipsoid data and how wireless carriers, public safety, z-axis solution providers, and device manufacturers can work together to deliver intelligent location information to ECCs. Height above ellipsoid is not a number that can be simply looked at and taken at face value due to the fact that GPS has no knowledge of where the ground is located (due to hills, mountains, valleys, buildings, bridges, etc.). Height above ellipsoid data uses the smooth mathematical model of the earth and does not take into account local undulations in terrain ground level, occasionally producing incorrect information. This means that in order for this data to be a valuable resource for ECCs, we need systems and GIS data that can convert these raw measurements into actionable information.

John also shares a few fascinating real-world examples of 3-D 9-1-1 caller location and automated 3-D mapping, showcasing the available technologies today that can make vertical location information more actionable:

  • The 3-D digital twin of US Bank Stadium connected to IoT sensor feeds
  • A 3-D map showing 9-1-1 caller location using a cylinder, this type of map is created procedurally across a wide area and is even scalable to entire states and nations
  • A 3-D map highlighting a floor level a caller is believed to be on

Innovations in z-axis technology

The panelists conclude the webinar by discussing the innovations and upcoming technologies that will enable the delivery of z-axis information in a digestible format to ECCs. GIS mapping technology is becoming more advanced because it combines GIS mapping with architectural CAD and BIM systems, as well as 3-D graphics and gaming engine technologies. The combination of these technologies enables hyper accurate, photorealistic 3-D digital twins of buildings. This level of detail is great for public safety training, simulation, and tactical planning. 

GeoComm is working to combine these innovations with the practical purpose of mapping to communicate pertinent information quickly to 9-1-1 telecommunicators. The next big innovation to come is to take the z-axis data and convert it to floor-level mapping. GeoComm’s 9-1-1 mapping is built on Esri technology, which is a complete world-wide 3-D GIS platform; it enables them to calculate height above ground from height above ellipsoid using the 3-D terrain elevation service and ellipsoidal model built into the Esri system. This allows them to make educated assumptions that can provide coarse estimates of floor range in a building from height above ellipsoid.

To learn more about how 9-1-1 telecommunicators can access accurate location and z-axis information today, view the webinar now.

To learn more about the GeoComm solution, visit www.rapidsos.com/geocomm.