Accurate 9-1-1 Caller Location: Coming to a Screen Near You


The CTIA Announcement on September 5th represents a major milestone in 9-1-1 caller location accuracy and fantastic news for our nations over 6,000 9-1-1 centers:

Eases integration for 9-1-1 emergency call centers

“The adoption of Device Based Hybrid  solutions for wireless 9-1-1 calls will not require Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) to install new equipment or software, interface to new location service providers, or incur additional costs.”

Another quote from the press release-

“By integrating device-based hybrid (DBH) location technology solutions – similar to those used by popular commercial services, like ride-sharing and navigation apps – the public safety community can more accurately determine a wireless 9-1-1 caller’s location, particularly inside buildings.

DBH solutions use a combination of technologies and sensors—including satellite GPS and crowd-sourced Wi-Fi measurements— that can supplement wireless providers’ existing 9-1-1 network and device-assisted information to produce a higher-accuracy location, particularly indoors.”

So- the wireless carriers are going to include information from the handsets (DBH) to provide a more precise caller location. The PSAP does not need to do anything different- the enhanced location is shown on the screen.

Our Experience

When we discuss wireless handsets, there are really two providers of the operating systems:

  • Apple (iOS- note iOS12 will be released later this year)
  • Google (Android)

We participated in a trial recently with one of the above companies, specifically on 9-1-1 location. One of the reasons that I am a fan of providing the location through the carriers is that during our testing we identified occasional anomalies.

For example, a 13-year-old boy called 9-1-1 from the Boca Raton area. The device-based location data placed this call about 100 miles northeast- in the Atlantic Ocean. The process the wireless carriers use would factor in the various data inputs, including the cell tower address, and exclude the ‘in the ocean data’. The cell tower address would clearly show the handset only data was incorrect. Sort of a checks and balances approach.

Committing to provide Public Safety with an accurate 9-1-1 location is a HUGE  deal. The CTIA team, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile all deserve thanks for stepping up to address this issue.