CTIA Show and the Impact on 9-1-1


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It had been a few years since I’d been at the CTIA conference so I went this year to get a sense for where things are heading.  For those of you who don’t know, CTIA is a major industry association for the wireless industry, much like NENA is for the 9-1-1 Industry.  While much of the show is focused on infrastructure and devices, there were some very interesting trends as they relate to NG9-1-1 and the changes coming to 9-1-1 in general.

Here are my Top 3 observations:

It’s a connected world.  Connected devices seemed to be the buzz word of the show floor.  From vehicles, to homes, to medical monitoring tools, to smartphone apps, to custom built devices embedded in other devices – everything has a wireless connection and is communicating its status and very often its location.  It’s not hard to imagine that the next step in many of those devices is connecting to emergency services.  Consider the home alert monitoring service automatically calling 9-1-1 and exposing the live video feed of the “entity” setting off the motion detector, or the glucose monitoring device that normally provides updates to a physician exceeding a danger threshold that indicates it should contact 9-1-1 immediately.  The devices themselves may be able to contact emergency services but not provide all the information necessary to correctly assess the situations and dispatch.  This is where the NG9-1-1 concept of “URIs” and additional data becomes so important – the devices will send pointers to other sources of data that can aggregate a far richer picture of the incident (e.g. the person’s medical history, primary care physician, emergency contact, access instructions, etc.).

Better start embracing “Big data”.  Think about the connected world and how much data it will generate.  Now imagine this data being fed into the 9-1-1 system with all of our legal requirements around logging and recording.  Suddenly you’ve found yourself in the world of big data.  There will be lots of it to store, it will come in all sorts of formats, be un-standardized, BUT it will also offer all sorts of rich insights if you are able to effectively analyze and mine it.  Imagine if you are able to predict with a high degree of reliability the areas that will be effected by flooding and at what time based on the rate of change seen in the level of a stream.  I wrote previously on some of the impacts of big data on public safety.

The changing face of messaging – are we already behind?  Hot on the heals of news that the volume of messages sent by messaging apps had exceeded SMS, it was no surprise to see a variety of different messaging solutions.  Essentially, with the growth of data plans it has become more economical for the consumer to message via data plans than via SMS.  So what is the implication for all the work that is being done to support SMS-to-911?  That’s a good question!  The FCC is rightly putting a lot of focus on SMS, but has recognized other forms of mobile messaging in all of its rulings and proposed rulings.  As of yet, there aren’t any mandates on messaging apps as it relates to emergency communications but they can’t be far away.  NG9-1-1 clearly envisions all sorts of different messaging mediums, it’s now just a matter of how quick the NextGen networks will deploy and whether all the app vendors of the world will comply with emerging standards.

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