Moving Beyond Enhanced 9-1-1: Indoor Location, Next Generation 9-1-1, Public Safety LTE, and More

Enhanced 9-1-1 is a North American telephone network (NANP) feature of the 9-1-1 emergency-calling system that automatically associates a physical address with the calling party’s telephone number.  A second phase of Enhanced 9-1-1 service allows a wireless device to be located geographically using various radio-location technologies from the cellular network, or by using a Global Positioning System (GPS) built into the phone itself. 

Enhanced 9-1-1 is a North American telephone network (NANP) feature of the 9-1-1 emergency-calling system that automatically associates a physical address with the calling party’s telephone number.  A second phase of Enhanced 9-1-1 service allows a wireless device to be located geographically using various radio-location technologies from the cellular network, or by using a Global Positioning System (GPS) built into the phone itself. 

Originally adopted in 1996, and with a last major revision in 2010, location determination standards were based solely on the measured performance of outdoor wireless 9-1-1 calls.  

Original USA Mandate for 9-1-1

  • In October 1994, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued FCC 94-102, with the order published in July 1996. The original order required:
  • By 1st October, 1997: Phase 0 required all 911 calls to be delivered to Public Safety Answer Points (PSAP), even for “unintialized” mobile devices
  •  By 1st April, 1998: Phase I required mobile operators to provide a call back number and location data to PSAP
  • By 1st October, 2001: Phase II required mobile operator to provide call back number and caller location within 125 meters 67% of the time based on a root mean square (RMS*) average
  • The FCC later amended the location accuracy/precision requirements for phase II to the following:
  • Handset based position determination equipment (PDE): 50 meters 67% of the time, 150 meters 95% of the time
  • Network based PDE: 100 meters 67% of the time, 300 meters 95% of the time
  • Hybrid PDE: 50 meters 67% of the time, 150 meters 95% of the time
  • The above requirements provided for the ability to phase in the required technology over a four year period.

The FCC recognized the fact that, generally speaking, handset based PDE (such as A-GPS) is more accurate than network based PDE. The FCC also recognizes that it would take some time for mobile operators to deploy handsets for handset based positioning. Specific accuracy obtained will be dependent on the type of mobile positioning deployed and other factors such as environmental conditions such as user distance from the location measurement units, topography, and atmospheric conditions.

9-1-1 Standards

The TIA Ad Hoc Emergency Services (AHES) committee developed a standard, which would eventually become a joint standard for US ANSI-41 and GSM deployments of WES – the J-STD-036. The J-STD-036 ultimately evolved to incorporate a mobile positioning center (MPC) that would provide the location manager middle-ware function for WES as well as commercial based LBS. Additional Wireless Intelligent Network (WIN) standards are evolving to provide additional capabilities in support of the MPC and commercial LBS.

Indoor Location for 9-1-1

Moving beyond phase II, more recent efforts from the FCC and public safety organizations are leading towards dramatically improved indoor location determination.  In January 2015, the Commission adopted new Enhanced 911 (E911) location accuracy rules and information collection requirements.  The FCC established clear and measureable timelines for wireless providers to meet new indoor location accuracy benchmarks, both for horizontal and vertical location information.

This is a move in response as the FCC stated: “major changes in the wireless landscape since the Commission first adopted its wireless Enhanced 911 (E911) location accuracy rules in 1996 and since the last significant revision of these rules in 2010”. 

Horizontal Location Data

All Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) providers must provide (1) dispatchable location,   or (2) x/y location within 50 meters, for the following percentages of wireless 911 calls within the following timeframes, measured from the effective date of rules adopted in this Order (“Effective Date”)

  • Within 2 years: 40 percent of all wireless 911 calls
  • Within 3 years: 50 percent of all wireless 911 calls
  • Within 5 years: 70 percent of all wireless 911 calls
  • Within 6 years: 80 percent of all wireless 911 calls

Vertical Location Data

All CMRS providers must also meet the following requirements for provision of vertical location information with wireless 911 calls, within the following timeframes measured from the Effective Date:

  • Within 3 years:  All CMRS providers must make uncompensated barometric data available to PSAPs from any handset that has the capability to deliver barometric sensor data. 
  • Within 3 years:  Nationwide CMRS providers must use an independently administered and transparent test bed process to develop a proposed z-axis accuracy metric, and must submit the proposed metric to the Commission for approval.
  • Within 6 years: Nationwide CMRS provides must deploy either (1) dispatchable location, or (2) z-axis technology that achieves the Commission-approved z-axis metric, in each of the top 25 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs).

By early 2017, all providers must submit their first reports on aggregate live 911 call location data to the Commission, NENA, APCO, and NASNA.  Nationwide providers must report live call data collected in the six Test Cities, and must provide reports on a quarterly basis.

Next Generation 9-1-1

Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) is an initiative to update 9-1-1 service infrastructure in the United States and Canada.  NG911 migration is focused on transitioning the current traditional 9-1-1 environment to an operational model based on secure IP transport, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), modern network functional elements and changing responsibilities between a telecommunications service provider and local 9-1-1 authorities.  Public safety agencies look to lower operating costs through conversion to less-expensive IP-based systems and provide the public with more advanced communications options, such as text-to-911 and other multi-media communications (video, photos, etc.).

Public Safety LTE

Public safety is much more than just dialing an emergency number as integrated communications and information is critical for optimal emergency response and coordination.   Accordingly, all industry constituents are looking towards 4G/LTE to provide major improvements over existing LMR communications systems for emergency responders.   It is anticipated that LTE will provide the high-speed data performance necessary to support the multimedia applications on which today’s public safety agencies are increasingly relying.

Emerging Public Safety Support Technologies

Emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) are expected to improve emergency response effectiveness and also protect first responders themselves.  Coupled with LTE, 5G, and other broadband wireless systems, AR and other technologies will bring about an entirely new class of public safety applications and services that are heretofore inconceivable.

Public Safety Data Analytics

Leveraging Big Data Analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies for public safety is also important for the future of public safety.  There is an increasing demand for ubiquitous data connection for the public safety community.  Data connectivity of the future will come from many sources, many of which will be machine-to-machine based, requiring little or no human interaction.  There is also an opportunity to improve public safety by leveraging data analytics, especially in the area of real-time processing at the edge.

For more information, see the Mind Commerce report:

Public Safety Technology and Solutions: Market Analysis and USA Forecasts 2016 – 2020 evaluates the current state of public safety technology and solutions and assesses emerging technologies and potential future solutions.  The report also provides forecasts for public safety technology spending in the United States for 2016 through 2020.