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.

One thought on “Accurate 9-1-1 Caller Location: Coming to a Screen Near You

  1. @Fletch911

    I just have to ask, what finally changed the carriers minds on this topic? Initially, they were opposed and seemingly embarrassed by the accuracy Device Based Location provided. in fact, the CTIA, along with NENA and APCO felt they needed to file an official statement with the Federal Communications Commission as outlined in their ex parte.
    [ ]
    After reading their comments, I also felt the need to do the same and filed my own ex parte
    [ ] after meeting with FCC officials. While I agree that we need to be careful about exposing PSAP’s to any unintentional degradation of service, I also think that they are yelling fire in a movie theater, when they just think they might smell smoke. How long are we going to continue to engineer to eliminate the most minor instances in accuracy? What happened to the 80-20 rule? Or the 90-10 rule? Or even the 95-5 rule?

    In all of the testing that occurred, what percentage of those calls actually did not route correctly? While we absolutely need to strive for perfection, should we sacrifice accuracy for most when one or two may not be served correctly? I look at that as a major degradation of service to most of the public, for the sake of a few specific use cases.

    It seems that, if you have 100 people, and you cannot provide quality services to all 100, then marginal service to half of them Is better then full service to 98 of them. Sorry,That math just doesn’t compute in my head.

    In the end, I am glad that the carriers are getting on board with this. I just hope that they include all of the device based location data and not a subset of it. The RapidSOS integration is one that is free to the PSAP, as well as the user. It provides high fidelity unaltered information from the device itself, Another thing is that the RapidSOS database will also ingest data from sources that are not cellular-based, such his vehicle telematics, and home automation devices. a new service provider is evolving and will be collecting revenues from the data providers(Not the constituents for the consumers). I think the carriers are worried they might miss out on a market that they clearly don’t understand yet. If they did, they would’ve developed this architecture years ago.

    I patiently wait for a bit, while the ‘other shoe drops’. Thanks as always Chuck for the information and opportunity to discuss.



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