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4G 9-1-1: It's APPed To Get Interesting

Author: Bruce Thorburn

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2011-06-10
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All puns aside, the proliferation of new applied data resources and new applications is going to be an impact of incredible proportion for E9-1-1 since Wireless E9-1-1. This will affect our systems in network, hardware, software, administration/management, training, and funding.

Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) is still in its formative stages (other than the knowledge that it will be Internet Protocol (IP) driven). Exactly what it will look like when the final blueprint is adopted by Federal or States Laws, Rules, and/or Mandates is still under review and discussion by the principles making the networks available; the hardware manufacturers for containment and presentation; the software for functionality; and the data bases for content.

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4G refers to the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards. A 4G system is expected to provide a comprehensive and secure IP-based solution; high usability for any technology (anytime/anywhere); support for multimedia services at low transmission costs; end user personalization; and integrated services.

One of the mysteries that has not yet been conclusively discussed and decided is how many and what kind of Applications (Apps.) will be used and from where to the PSAPs they will travel (open or closed systems designs).

The network component seems to be the most universally agreed upon element in the picture. For the NG9-1-1 design to reach its vision, use of an Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) will be used. This data, voice, and video highway will deliver E9-1-1 calls to the PSAP from point of origination and through a system of gateways, servers, routers, and controllers for auditory and visual presentation.


Some of the hardware components have already been developed and tested; but there may be need for modifications depending on the exact specifications for call delivery (especially the cyber security and containment aspects) and presentation at the PSAP position. Whether these data base repositories and engines reside remotely or locally; and whether they integrate through or aside traditional ANI/ALI controllers is still an issue (one which should not deter testing and refining new or alternative means).

Software designs are already available depending on the manufacturers’ present offerings. The operations systems, securities packages, and display features are all being created and re-created as the industries, providers, and end users decide just what type of information will be available to the telecommunicators to expedite the E9-1-1 call handling and dispatch. The list of applications that may/might be used grows depending on the requirements and/or fundability of individual agencies.

The systems administration and management will be critical to an efficient call delivery and handling operation. The availability of experienced systems and security engineers and technicians; network – knowledgeable personnel; tabular and spatial data base expertise; and input/output and containment capable individuals will all be in great demand. Finding and keeping these folks will be of paramount importance to agencies whether they choose in-house, traditional provider solutions, or ongoing consultants. How the data components are gathered, processed, forwarded, and prepared for reporting purposes will be beneficial for long term analysis and planning as well as for budgetary consideration.

Training will be crucial to systems success whether it is for the providers’ technical staff, agency management, telecommunicators, and systems support personnel. As 9-1-1 has transcended from the earliest voice – only calling; through the development of Automatic Number Identification (ANI) and Automatic Location Identification (ALI); the technology challenges of Wireless Phase 1 & 2 development and implementation; the systemic impacts of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP); and the newly emerging and growth of NG9-1-1 and its G4 features (whatever they eventually turn out to be) the single most difficult to manage and fund has been the training aspect for implementation and maintenance. The difficulty in hiring, maintaining training, and re-training personnel cannot be overstated or emphasized.

The funding issue, and its many hurdles (especially in the realm of bandwidth costs), is not one of any surprise to both the public and private sectors involved in this measure. Finding and acquiring well-versed instructors for all of the technicians, managers/directors, and end users; qualified candidates to fill these positions; and the time constraints for doing so are all concerns to the E9-1-1 community. Concerted effort needs to be exacted toward informing the Legislators that funding for this life-saving provisioning is critical due to the very fact that this technology is in place and growing exponentially with the rise of new end users as well as the potential impacts of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010). The expectations of both citizen and visitor end users should and cannot not be disregarded, especially due to the possible legal liabilities for failure to respond to the emerging technology.

Bruce Thorburn has been in the 9-1-1 Community since 1982, including five years with Orange County, Florida as their Database Manager, and 23 years with Lake County, Florida performing as E9-1-1/Addressing, Telecommunications, and Cable Television Regulatory Authority and Director. Bruce has also been the Legislative Liaison for Florida NENA since 1995 and been on the State Plan Technical Committee for Florida from its inception.




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