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Are we crossing the stream to get water?

Dispatchable location has over the years been one of the most prominent challenges for the public safety sector. Gustaf Nordenhök delves into this topic.

The action of calling 112 is ingrained in us all. When you need help, it is the first call you make.

Across Europe, over 80% of 112 calls are made by mobile devices. This proliferation of not being “tethered” to a specific location or address (when landlines were used) presents new challenges, the greatest of which is determining where those calls are coming from, so help can be dispatched quickly.

GNSS and cell-tower triangulation technologies provide relatively accurate outdoor locations, but do not do well in urban and indoor environments like cities, offices and apartment buildings.

Providing a “dispatchable address” – which can be defined as: street name, street number, floor and apartment number- has been one of the most significant challenges of our industry.

Multi-storey buildings present an added challenge. When the caller’s location information is obtained, it is mostly the horizontal detail (ground floor) that is estimated and not the exact floor of the caller (often referred to as z-axis). And there is no technology yet being used which provides the room or apartment number.

As an example of the problem, imagine you arrive at your 6th floor holiday rental apartment late at night. You are in a new city, possibly in a different country that speaks a different language. You later awake with chest pain. Panicked and afraid, you dial 112, but you either do not remember your address, cannot speak the language, or simply cannot speak.

An exact dispatchable address in this instance would ensure first responders are provided “the right door to knock on” and ensure that help arrives quickly.

The goal for our Emergency Number Network is a “dispatchable address” which would translate location data into a specific street address, floor and room number of an emergency caller. All whilst being interoperable and compliant with a country’s regulations, laws and infrastructures.

Today, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) fully map and update all their access point locations. It is this existing data, and signal strength, which could be utilized as a “tag-based system” to provide a nationwide system of “verified location data points” for the emergency services.

Working across mobile, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and other Next Generation platforms, this network would be cost effective (using existing infrastructure) and technically viable, and would enable floor and apartment number information to be available to emergency responders in the near future.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of EENA. Articles do not represent an endorsement by EENA of any organisation.

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