Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
Airbus DS Communications Launches Text-to-9-1-1 Solution, Other Upgrades to VESTA® 9-1-1 Suite
July 16th, 2015 by Susan Smith
Bob Freinberg, CEO of Airbus DS Communications, an entity of Airbus Defense and Space, talked with GISCafe Voice about the new VESTA Text-to-9-1-1 and upgrades for that company.
“I am particularly excited to announce our new SMS offering which places text-to-9-1-1 capability inside our VESTA 9-1-1 solution, giving agencies the ability to easily address text calls. This is what our customers have been asking for,” said Freinberg.
The company introduced multiple new products and upgrades within its suite of VESTAâ 9-1-1 solutions. The release includes the launch of the VESTA® SMS solution, the company’s text-to-9-1-1 platform, an entirely new VESTA Map solution, and significant upgrades to the VESTA Analytics solution. Each delivers leading edge technology to strengthen and advance public safety communications for communities of all sizes.
Freinberg said Airbus DS Communications has been in business for over 40 years, providing public safety answering points (PSAPS), which allows people to call 911 and state their emergency.
“Today in the U.S. marketplace, we serve over 60% of the 911 calls that come into over 6,000 centers in the U.S. Our system accepts that call,” said Freinberg. “We’ve done this over the years through acquisition as well as organic growth. The public safety answering points (PSAPS) are police, sheriff’s offices, fire, emergency management, airports, they are on federal Department of Defense bases, Army, Air Force, Navy, NASA. Consequently they are on U.S. property.
Airbus also has solutions on properties located outside the U.S. where they embrace U.S. standards. This platform, VESTA 911, can operate in multiple languages. It is there to handle those calls as they come in. The largest cities would be New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
“We have a lot of sites in New Mexico and other smaller areas, that would be two position public safety answering points sites,” said Freinberg. “Telecommunicators answer the call and will dispatch to police and fire emails. There are over 400 positions in New York City. That’s the span of size of what we serve in the 6,000 + PSAPS and we serve 6 out of 10.”
Years ago, the states embarked on wireless location – wireless phase 1 and phase 2. “We introduced our own mapping product to map a wireline and wireless call within wireless towers, which closes so that the operator receiving the call could determine not only the address that came with the call but could see it pop up on the map,” said Freinberg. “Now, the major transformation in the public safety 911 industry is moving from a voice call to accepting calls of all media types which become requests for service. This series of releases we have is built around short message service (SMS). The FCC mandated most PSAPS should be operating in this fashion by 2014. So we’ve embarked on to build SMS handling with our user interface because the core of VESTA is a user interface in front of a call taker or telecommunicator where they handle and manipulate the call that comes in from the residents. All of that is mapped and archived. With SMS that is now also inside our VESTA user interface so it’s truly integrated.”
The VESTA SMS solution is based on the NENA i3 specification and supports interfacing Text Control Center (TCC) service providers as outlined in the Joint Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) J-STD-110 specification.
VESTA and the entire suite are moving to build geospatial multimedia call handling and routing calls within the customer enterprise. The technology allows the building of systems large enough that 1-5-50 public safety answering points (PSAPS) can share one VESTA system – a VESTA instance. Those PSAPS can now share information because they act as one VESTA instance. They can share their GIS mapping data, they can use same set of data, they can receive calls, they can have an operator go from one PSAP to another. They can pick up their calls at that answering point in case the first one goes down.
“We are moving toward more enterprise oriented collective sharing of multiple PSAPS and our first venture in to multimedia or data call handling and routing is SMS,” said Freinberg. “I think there are only 260 out of the 6,000 that actually handle SMS. This is important because the way it’s done today is outside the call handling solutions for the most part, and they have to be handled separately. This is inside the core call handling system.”
Now that Airbus DS is building multimedia based call handling and routing solutions in larger regions and sharing that, GIS data becomes more important for routing based on coordinates x,y and z. SMS is considered a “major initiative” and Airbus’ goal is to get the vast majority of VESTA 911 customers handling SMS.
The new VESTA 911 capability within the VESTA 911 platform can be likened to being able to see text messages on the phone and respond back. That window on the iPhone is sitting in front of a telecommunicator – the operator picks it up clicks up on the screen, up comes request for service and the session begins.
That session is also on VESTA Map and pops up. Depending upon the cellular carrier it would give you the GIS coordinate or nearest tower to that location and the text session continues. SMS is a best effort service so the text could go back and forth – in some cases text is instantaneous, or could take 30 seconds to 1 minute.
The VESTA Map solution is entirely new and offers users a real-time mapping built on Esri’s ArcGIS for Server. The solution can support regional or statewide 9-1-1 systems via an Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) so public safety providers can share resources and save costs.
“So messaging goes on and that session continues to be mapped if the caller is moving,” said Freinberg. “This session is captured real time from a chain of evidence and is so important in public safety. In VESTA Analytics the data is captured and stored. There are analytics within it that allow the administration of PSAPS to see how effective it was, how long did the session last, how well administered, etc.”
“Being the first agency in the U.S. to complete a native text-to-9-1-1 call is a major step forward and will greatly improve our ability to protect our communities,” said Anita Pitt, 911 Program Manager for Brazos Valley Council of Governments. “Our call takers are impressed with the ease of use of the SMS functionality and how naturally it fits into the classic call taking process. The integration of SMS into the VESTA Analytics system is a boon from a management standpoint and allows us to take a deeper, more critical look at all aspects of the call center, including SMS calls for assistance.”
The PSAPS are now sharing these large VESTA systems, across 5-30 PSAPS. This has been the sweet spot in the market for Airbus DS where their systems share very hardened core back rooms that can serve 200+ plus and can consume 300+ call takers.
Municipalities can acquire the Airbus DS platform or rely on their service providers who resell and they sell it as a prime contractor. These providers may be Century Link, AT&T or others who sell as prime contractor and install VESTA systems. VESTA systems are supported at a second and third level, they have their technicians onsite and support the system remotely or onsite. “We have 200 PSAPS directly ourselves without a service provider but most are operating through them,” said Freinberg.
Today PSAPS are associated with street addresses. Five or ten years from now, they will be routed geospatially with coordinates and data. VESTA Map and Analytics are the first step toward that.
“From handheld device to right location with the right data with it. The transformation is the first step in that direction with our suite,” said Freinberg.
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