Geospatial Routing

Telemarketing Calls Invade 9-1-1

Vector icons set call center avatars in a flat style

 

Call Taker:  9-1-1, what is the location of your emergency?

Caller: Hello! how are you?

The caller then breaks into a sales pitch for:

  • Dental Insurance
  • Priceline
  • Hilton Resorts
  • Marriott Resorts
  • Orlando Theme Parks
  • Cancun resorts
  • Travel Dollars

and many more….. The telemarketers did not understand that their Envoy Robo-Dialer had routed their call to 9-1-1. This specific issue began in South Florida in September and is still in the process of being resolved.

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

If you work in a 9-1-1 Center you know the term pANI.

When a wireless caller dials 9-1-1, the system inserts a fake or “pseudo’ phone number (automatic number identifier or ANI) into the 9-1-1 call flow while the wireless callers real phone number is being identified. This pANI is sent, along with the audio, to the PSAP and presented on the call takers screen.

If you look at a cell tower, there are normally three sides or sectors and each sector has a group of these ‘fake’ or ‘pseudo’ numbers associated with it.

By design, you should not be able to directly dial these ‘fake’ phone numbers- Example below-

pani

What we now understand is that one of the major wireless carriers utilized phone numbers that can be dialed directly in their 9-1-1 configuration.

SO- A telemarketing company loaded a series of sequential phone numbers into their dialer, and the fake or pANI phone numbers were included. Because the wireless carrier had these numbers configured wrong, the robo caller dialed the number and directly connected their telemarketer to 9-1-1.

It took a lot of research and time to identify the root cause. Tremendous frustration on the part of 9-1-1 call takers who endured this issue for weeks.

Eventually the root cause was identified and the wireless carrier began making the appropriate configuration changes (requesting non-dialable numbers to be used as the pANI)  throughout their network.

Now- if we actually had Geospatial routing, the need for the pANI would go away…

 

GeoSpatial (location based) Routing- We Tried

When I took over this project in 2013, one feature that appealed to me was geospatial  routing. Instead of wireless 9-1-1 calls being routed to a PSAP based on the cell tower/sector database, it would now be routed to the correct PSAP based on the location of the caller. (You NG9-1-1 technical types out there- you know the acronyms and flow)

We have hundreds of cell towers and 18 PSAPs, so the idea of avoiding/reducing 9-1-1 transfers between PSAPs  made tremendous sense.

There were plans to create a geofence around our main courthouse and the airport. Both of these facilities are located within the City of West Palm Beach, yet – as County facilities- are staffed by the County Sheriffs Office. Placing a geofence around these properties and routing 9-1-1 calls from within the geofence directly to the Sheriffs Office makes sense and, as we were told, easy to do.

courthouse

logo-courthouse

Palm Beach County Courthouse West Palm Beach

Our GIS team attended training, reviewed the standards and went to work on preparing our data. A few months ago, after having the data professionally ‘vetted’, we felt that we were ready to move forward with location based- geospatial- routing.

Around this same time we were asked to look at the current routing of 9-1-1 calls FROM the Town of Palm Beach. Donald Trump has a ocean front home on the island (not far from  our offices).  The town is a 16 mile long, narrow, barrier island. There are only a few cell towers. As a result, a number of 9-1-1 calls that originate on the island are connected to cell tower sectors across the intracoastal waterway. They are routed first to a ‘mainland’ PSAP and then transferred back to the island.

The ideal scenario would be to route all 9-1-1 calls directly to the Town of Palm Beach PSAP. In this scenario, turning on geospatial routing made sense.

In our industry there is a lot of talk about implementing this feature. So- when we reached out to the wireless carriers to let them know we were ready- we were surprised at the response.

Today, wireless carriers in our area are not ready to transition away from the MSAG and cell sector routing. It appears to be a complex issue. A portion of the 9-1-1 fee is returned to the carriers for providing  9-1-1 services (including the MSAG), so moving away from this may take time.

I have been told that there are NG9-1-1 deployments out there that are doing geospatial routing. I do not mean holding the call and waiting for the ‘Phase 2’ data as the initial input..

If you are reading this and are truly doing geospatial, please comment below – I’d love to speak with your wireless provider. In the meantime there are options being discussed in certain working groups, led by the FCC.

 

Google Can Now Provide Wireless 9-1-1 Location Information with its Android Operating System.

Google

First-  It is important to remember that there can be three distinct issues involving wireless 9-1-1 calls :  

  1. Call Routing  (Having the 9-1-1 call routed to the correct PSAP)

  2. Enhanced Location Information (Phase II) Challenge

  3. Indoor Location Information Challenge

With this recent Google announcement, we are only dealing with items number 2 and 3 above. The Google announcement does not address item 1- Call Routing.

Also, Googles’ mobile operating system, Android, commands approximately 80% of the market globally and almost 60% of the market in the United States.

And now:

Andriod111
Google has announced an Android feature that can  provide accurate location information for wireless 9-1-1  callers.  It is currently available in the UK and Estonia.

Google Europe Blog Post

Per Akshay Kannan, Google Product Manager “this uses the same location technologies available on your phone, including Wi-Fi, GPS, and cell towers, to produce a more reliable emergency location both indoors and outdoors.”

There is no app to install. Instead, Google will work with each wireless provider to allow the location information that Android calculates to be utilized by 9-1-1. An individual calling 9-1-1 would not need to have any knowledge of the technology or do anything special (e.g. search for their 9-1-1 app), they simply dial 9-1-1.

Google is reportedly in discussion with U.S. wireless providers.

So, without any technical details, Google has “put it out there” that they can assist the 9-1-1 community and the general population. Exactly how this technology works, or how the wireless carriers will utilize it, is not yet clear. We can guess, however, that this may be a major breakthrough that could immediately assist Calltakers by better identifying the location of the 9-1-1 caller.

We are all aware that last year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new rules around 9-1-1 location accuracy. APCO Website on the the FCC Location Rules. Will the wireless carriers utilize this technology to quickly provide more accurate location data for 9-1-1 callers? Or possibly use it to augment other plans?

I am hopeful that more information will be provided in the near term.

Also, I hope our friends at Apple have a similar offering in the works. I turned down an offer to work on Tim Cook’s team back in 2004- I’m not sure he will take my call…

 
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NextGen 9-1-1 Inside the PSAP

If your career is INSIDE the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), one question might be “How will NG9-1-1 help us do our job?”

In speaking with Telecommunicators (those dedicated individuals that answer your 9-1-1 call), many identify the following to be important:

  • Reduce the number of transfers– in other words, have the network route wireless 9-1-1 calls to the correct PSAP the first time, eliminating the need for 9-1-1 Call Takers to transfer the call elsewhere. note: I’ve listened to a lot of 9-1-1 calls, it can literally freak people out to tell them that you cannot help them, that they are located in another jurisdiction and you will need to transfer the call. Recently, a mother whose child needed assistance called 9-1-1 and was told that her call needed to be transferred. She became extremely upset. Later, she went to a local TV station to complain. Dan Koenig, from my team, and I were interviewed for a segment to explain how the current system works. 

Today most wireless 9-1-1 calls are routed, not by the callers location, but by which cell tower and cell tower face (sector) their mobile phone is connected to..

In the example below, the 9-1-1 caller is connected to a cell tower and sector that is ‘programmed’ to send all 9-1-1 calls to Municipality A. This is simply a limitation of how the traditional 9-1-1 network functions today.

PSAP A will receive this 9-1-1 call.  Once they determine the 9-1-1 callers location, they will transfer the call to PSAP B.

Cell Sector

  • NextGen impact:

With Geospatial Routing, the location of the caller is determined first. This information is then passed on to the GIS mapping function, which should then route the caller to the correct PSAP. In the picture above, the NextGen system should route the 9-1-1 caller directly to PSAP B.

Update: Admiral David Simpson of the FCC (Bio Here) posted a comment on this blog, mentioning that there are numerous occasions, throughout the country, where the mapping capabilities of (in this scenario) PSAP A would not provide the location of the 9-1-1 caller, so the Call Taker would not know where to transfer the call to provide assistance.

It is important to note that the above example addresses only a single  aspect, routing the call to the correct PSAP. Next post, we will look at the Holy Grail of identifying the exact dispatchable address of the 9-1-1 caller…