Among the exciting news from NENA 2019 was the announcement that wireless carriers will now be providing emergency communications centers (ECCs) with device-based hybrid location. Device-based hybrid (DBH) location is calculated on the caller’s device and has been shown to be much more accurate than the network-based location traditionally delivered by the carriers. This commitment by the carriers to deliver DBH location to 9-1-1 telecommunicators is a huge step in the right direction of solving the 9-1-1 data challenge.
What is DBH location?
Applications we use on our mobile phones every day locate users with a device-based hybrid (DBH) approach that relies on multiple sources of information (GPS, WiFi access points, etc.), whereas 9-1-1 has until recently taken a more limited approach. Corroborating location information across multiple sources increases accuracy and in many cases this information is constantly available and updated on the device, so location delivery is instantaneous.
The delivery of DBH location to 9-1-1 involves the device manufacturers — Apple and Google. Android Emergency Location Service (ELS) is Google’s way of delivering DBH location to public safety. This feature is already deployed on every Android device and has been active in numerous countries including the U.K, Estonia, Lithuania, Austria, Iceland, Belgium, Ireland, Finland and New Zealand for years. ELS calculates location when an emergency call is placed and transmits it using the Advanced Mobile Location (AML) protocol. The results have been positive and many success stories have been cited where lives were saved because of the improved location accuracy.
Hybridized Emergency Location (HELO) is the equivalent capability for Apple devices. As stated in an Apple press release, “Apple launched HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) in 2015, which estimates a mobile 9-1-1 caller’s location using cell towers and on-device data sources like GPS and WiFi Access Points.” A kayaker in Florida experienced the benefits of HELO first-hand when he capsized in the Gulf while fishing. Thanks to the heroic work of the 911 dispatcher and rescue crews, the kayaker was located by a supervisor in the center using the RapidSOS Portal and saved – even after drifting farther out to sea. “I kept thinking ‘they’ll never find me’”, he said. “ I was cold and tired and I wasn’t sure if I would make it. The minutes felt like hours. I can’t thank these rescuers enough.”
Getting DBH location to the ECC
For years the industry debated whether DBH location would be an effective method to address the 9-1-1 location challenge. Now, PSAPs, vendors, technologists, and industry associations have agreed that DBH is the answer — shifting the question from what type of location should be used to how this location should be displayed to telecommunicators in the ECC.
Today, DBH location can either be delivered to ECCs through the ALI, or as supplemental location through the RapidSOS Clearinghouse.
The ALI Approach: Retrofitting a System from the 1960s
The Carrier’s delivery of DBH location will occur through the ALI, the system currently used for network-based location delivery. The ALI is reliant on outdated infrastructure that can only handle minimal amounts of text-based information, creating issues for this method of DBH delivery.
Today, technological advancements have devices and applications more connected than ever. And yet, the current 9-1-1 infrastructure only allows for the transfer of 512 bytes of data — less data than the first transatlantic telegram sent over one hundred fifty years ago. So while the everyday technology continue to collect and connect an abundance of supplemental data, telecommunicators and first responders managing millions of emergencies every year are left without any of this additional data from the field. Providing public safety agencies with more data from the sites of emergencies results in faster, better prepared response, improving emergency outcomes.
The RapidSOS Approach: Building Modern Emergency Infrastructure for the Future
Along with DBH location information through the ALI, telecommunicators also have access to reliable DBH location data within milliseconds of call delivery from the RapidSOS Clearinghouse, updating telecommunicators in real time with accurate location data.
RapidSOS is dedicated to building a modern emergency infrastructure not just for the present, but also for the future. The limitations of ALI cannot support the life-saving data that is available from modern technology. With RapidSOS, telecommunicators can also see rich data from user profiles, mobile apps, connected cars/homes, and wearable devices, and text-to-911 location for certain devices. RapidSOS Portal allows any public safety agency to access life-saving additional data at no cost, today. Telecommunicators can view location and rich situational data for calls through the secure, web-based tool.
Get Access to Rich Additional Data for Your ECC
All public safety agencies nationwide will be able to access the rich Clearinghouse data during emergencies with RapidSOS Portal, a free, browser-based tool. Any authorized ECC can sign up for RapidSOS at no cost to provide telecommunicators with access to data from data sources such as MedicAlert, Apple, Google, and Uber. Once an agency has access to RapidSOS Portal, their telecommunicators will automatically be able to start accessing this rich additional data. Visit RapidSOSPortal.com to claim your agency’s account, and register for our webinar to learn more about how additional data can make all the difference in the outcome of an incident.