January 17, 2005
From 9-1-1 to E9-1-1, Where are you Calling From?
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -


Welcome to GISWeekly! With all the technology available in the U.S., it's astonishing that the nation's 9-1-1 systems are so archaic and fraught with problems. Perhaps not, when you consider what problems we have with information sharing in this country, a big issue which the new E9-1-1 legislation and subsequent solutions speak to in a big way. This week read about the new legislation and MapInfo's next generation E9-1-1 solution, the first submission to successfully complete Future Path Plan Compliance Review by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).


GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, Appointments, New Products, Around the Web and Upcoming Events.


GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at


Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor




Industry News


From 9-1-1 to E9-1-1, Where are you Calling From?

By Susan Smith


With all the technology available in the U.S., it's astonishing that the nation's 9-1-1 systems are so archaic and fraught with problems. Perhaps not, when you consider what problems we have with information sharing in this country, a big issue which the new E9-1-1 legislation and subsequent solutions speak to in a big way.


On December 9, 2004, enhanced E9-1-1 legislation passed Congress - legislation intended to boost the nation's inefficient E9-1-1 system. H.R. 5419 as the telecommunications legislative package was called, included the “ENHANCE 9-1-1 Act of 2004,” the “Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act” and the “Universal Service Antideficiency Temporary Suspension Act.” The Enhance 9-1-1 Act (Ensuring Needed Help Arrives Near Callers Employing 9-1-1 Act) was supported by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) who also supported the entire H.R. 5419 package. The goal of the legislation is to provide the same 9-1-1 service to every citizen, “any time,
anywhere.”


CLICK TO ENLARGE

Illustrates what the Albany County PSAP would be seeing as the
incident, which is moving across bridge, approaches the Rensselaer County
line (counterpart is the Rensselaer County PSAP)
In answer to this challenge is MapInfo Corporation's next generation E9-1-1 solution, the first submission to successfully complete Future Path Plan Compliance Review by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). This Internet Protocol (IP)-based E9-1-1 solution was developed by MapInfo in conjunction with SIPquest, GeoComm and others, and has been awarded a “Conditionally Compliant” rating by NENA. According to NENA, the system will be eligible to receive a fully “Compliant” rating upon the successful production of operations and maintenance documentation through a pilot program.


NENA came up with the first standards for the E9-1-1 industry. They are the domain experts for E9-1-1 in the world. NENA has more of a focus on making industry as a whole move towards newer capabilities for emergency response to emergency calls; this involves more than just GIS.


I spoke with MapInfo COO Michael Hickey and John McCarthy, Director of Public Sector Sales at MapInfo, about the evolution of the system they have developed. “9-1-1 becomes a location problem with over 40 percent of E9-1-1 calls coming from wireless devices that are on the move,” explained Hickey. “Mobile solutions are needed to be able to route those calls to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). There have been different technologies that have tried to do that, which have been far from fail proof, and calls have been routed to the wrong PSAPs, which obviously causes time delays and other issues. We have designed a solution that fits with the future
technology plan that
NENA has put forth. The technology enhances performance of the current system and is able to handle all the things we know of today, while being capable of handling future advancements. We actually have a prototype that's been looked at by several states. We're trying to demonstrate this problem which many people say can't be solved. Essentially, we have the solution that can address the current issues.”


CLICK TO ENLARGE

Shows a screen from CARM (Critical Area Response Manager);
overview of types of data/information which can be visualized, and includes
address/location query, AVL (Automatic Vehicle Locator), plume analysis and
more.
How will MapInfo bridge the gap between the older analog E9-1-1 systems and the new systems?


More and more people are using wireless phones, or other digital devices such as VoIP, to access 9-1-1 networks. Estimates are that more than 40 percent of all E9-1-1 calls are from wireless phones, yet a large portion of the country is not Phase II compliant, which means that the PSAP does not automatically know the location of the caller.


“VoIP is one example of the next generation of new digital technology requiring E 9-1-1 services, but most E9-1-1 centers are not capable of handling such calls. Who knows what the next generation will be, perhaps mobile IM devices. The point is that technology will continue to advance and the challenge is how E9-1-1 can keep up with this” said McCarthy. “Unfortunately what we have in the world today are analog based E9-1-1 systems. The system we have developed is entirely digital. What is good about a digital system is, that in the world of public safety today, there are a number of efforts going on across the country to allow various applications to run on a public
safety digital transport
network. E9-1-1 can be one of them. This would allow information to be shared across multiple jurisdictions and appropriate entities.”


At their home office in Troy, New York, MapInfo has its prototype running that does wire line, wireless simulations and VoIP in a digital environment. “The technology's there, we just have to place it down someplace with the right level of resource to facilitate moving E9-1-1 into a different world today,” McCarthy noted.


What would be the initial startup costs for a company going from a completely analog to a completely digital system such as MapInfo is proposing?


According to McCarthy, “Analysis shows that it is extremely cost effective to go to a completely digital environment versus analog.”


Cost effective immediately or over a period of time?


“There is a movement in the wireless E9-1-1 industry that suggests that future customers for the E9-1-1 capability may not be the local PSAP. Technology is advancing so quickly that it's very difficult for PSAPs, whose expertise is public safety, to keep pace with technology enhancements, not only for the initial deployment but also on-going efforts to deal with emerging technologies. Part of our vision is that in an evolving market, the PSAP may be the recipient of the benefit of the technology but the technology is really deployed and managed as a resource someplace else. Where that might be: a regional, state or even national capability. And that's where your cost effectiveness
comes into play,” McCarthy explained.


The problem with people's calls not always being delivered to the correct PSAP in the existing E9-1-1 systems is not something that everyone knows about. “There's a lot of information that usually gets put into a PSAP-based system on an E9-1-1 call and other calls that come in for request for service. Bottom line is most of those calls meet a dead end at that PSAP,” concludes Hickey. “There's no way of sharing information from one PSAP to the next, from one county to the next, from one county up to the state level resource, up to a regional resource. There is an ongoing effort in a number of areas trying to create what's called a Common
Operating Picture. E9-1-1 and PSAPs should become part of a Common Operating Picture based on who needs to see what level of information where.”


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