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FCC starts to boot up Next Generation 911 (NG911)

About 70% of all 911 calls in the US are now made from mobile phones and the FCC is working to bring 911 into the digital age by enabling it to accept text and multimedia messages.

Approximately 70% of all 911 calls in the US are now made from mobile phones and the US Federal Communications Commission wants to take advantage of the advanced capabilities of those devices for sending text messages, photos, and video as part of the emergency response system. That means going a step beyond just E911, which enables location-awareness for people calling 911 from a mobile phone.

The new systems is called Next Generation 911, or NG911, and the FCC Chief of Public Safety and Homeland Security, Jamie Barnett, stated on Tuesday that the FCC has kicked off a new project that will do a gap analysis of what needs to be done to transition the current 911 system from the old circuit-switched phone system to a new digital platform that can interact with SMS and multimedia messages from the public.

This will essentially require a conversion to Voice over IP (VoIP), which will not only accept the new types of data from the public but will also be able to handle and route calls dynamically in order to avoid the types of overload that currently happens to 911 lines when a major disaster occurs, such as a hurricane.

Monday's announcement is the FCC's first step toward implementing NG911 nationwide. Some areas have already taken the initiative to deploy NG911 on their own.

Barnett said, "This November, I had the chance to visit Arlington, Virginia's state of the art 911 center, which is at the forefront of the move toward NG911. With 70% of our nation's 911 calls originating from mobile phones, the evolution of our 911 system to one which not only accepts, but welcomes, text and multimedia messages is crucial. The advances in our NG911 system pave the way for first responders to attain maximum situational awareness of an emergency before stepping onto the scene. Additionally, it allows consumers, who often rely on text and multimedia messaging, to feel comfortable in the fact that the 911 system is responsive to their unique needs in the new media environment."

I think this is one of those rare areas where most citizens would agree that this is a worthy use of tax dollars, as long as it's handled within a reasonable budget.

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

35 comments
sjillingworth
sjillingworth

The iTunes App Store has an app, Advanced 911 developed by Ten43.com, which allows me to text and send photos to 9-1-1. It includes my location (address, lat & long, and Google map link) with my first message. While I hope I never have to use it, I'm glad I have it available.

GuardianWatch
GuardianWatch

Last week FCC Chairman Genachowski's announcement of a 5 point plan to develop and deploy the Next Generation 911 System was a good bit behind the times. We in the trenches are already hard at work, while Congress argues over who is going to pay for it. Your input is needed to review a new real-time video streaming mobile technology that will help public safety professionals build safer communities. GuardianWatch.com

ryaneglinton
ryaneglinton

NG911 has received a new text message from: jessthebest021688 Message: omg help my frnd iz hert - can u send help k thx

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

As an amateur radio op and volunteer firefighter, I have been in the middle of enough emergencies to know one thing. Darn near all the infrastructure can be down, but analog circuit-switched PSTN lines stay up. Losing that capability should not be taken lightly.

panhead
panhead

Just something else to get deeper into our pockets, over something we already paid for... We need to start asking ourselves, do we really need such things as this? And will we use it? Or is it another way for them to tap your a*s again...

monster_cookie2148
monster_cookie2148

This is a great idea and should have been implemented two years ago. The only two concern I have with NG911 is, 1: it will be one more step to taking additional tax dollars from landline and wireless users. A tax is already collected each month for 911, a tax that should have gone away five years ago. Phone companies have collected enough from users to pay for the current 911 twice, and 2: this will be just another step in violating our civil rights. Anything like this in the hands of government (or civilians) is like giving candy to babies. Your cell phone can be monitored now without your knowledge as to location and voice. With NG911 any agency will have the ability to activate your camera or video on a wireless device and see everything you are doing and everything anyone around you at the time are doing. And, of course this will be done under the "Homeland Security Act" as a means of citizen protections. If in doubt just search the Internet for hacking tools available now that will do this. Privacy, defiantly a thing of the past. The only way to maintain privacy now days, just don't carry a cell phone or talk to anyone on a phone. And the part of VoIp, we all know that sooner or later phone companies will provide fiber to the house (being done in large metros now) and all phone within the next few years will be VoIp phones. My question, if hackers from all around the world are accessing VoIp PBX and other type systems today with a fair amount of ease, what makes one think that NG911 on VoIP won't be a picnic in the park for these people? Ya there are security firewalls, listen to that daily, have it on my VoIP PBX and they still manage to break in, so that won't wash either. I can just see now the headline news in 2-3 years "Major 911 Systems Being Compromised Or Taken Down Due To Hackers"....

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But I'm not understanding why somebody would text in an emergency. It's a lot easier to dial 911 and say "I'd like to report a car wreck at the intersection of highway one and highway six" than it is to text "car wreck @ 1 and 6." And a lot more understandable. At least it is on my phone.

Chas4
Chas4

Given how long it has taken the cell providers to fully support E911, I expect that this will come into effect some time after 2015. Even now not all of the providers provide all the information they should be to fully comply with E911.

pwel-la
pwel-la

I think this is a good idea. One suggestion is that people should preset their info (like their address) on their mobile device for quick response.

daanbrg
daanbrg

Although I definitely see the use of all of this, I can only shudder when I think about the enormous load that the equipment of the equipment has to cope with, if they'd like to receive mobile phone video - the quality is going up each day, even phones already recording HD video, like the Nokia N8 or the iPhone 4. Well, I guess we'll just wait and see.

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