FCC OKs Collecting Data on Next Generation 9-1-1 Applications

Legacy 9-1-1 systems fall short of current communications technologies.
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Legacy 9-1-1 systems fall short of current communications technologies.

Citing the addition of video to the “next generation” (NG) of 9-1-1 networks, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a “notice of inquiry” (NOI) at its Dec. 21 meeting which seeks comments on how NG 9-1-1 can move beyond voice-centric devices to advanced communications technologies.

by J.J. Smith

The NOI will initiate a comprehensive proceeding to examine how the deployment of a broadband enabled, IP based, NG 9-1-1 networks can harness the life-saving potential of text, photo and video in emergencies, said retired Rear Admiral James Barnett (US Navy), chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB).

In the communications industry, technological innovation has ushered in an era of advanced IP-based devices and applications that have enhanced the ability of the public to communicate, Barnett said. At the same time, our legacy 9-1-1 system is unable to accommodate the capabilities embedded in many of those advanced technologies, such as ability to transmit and receive photos, text messages and videos.

Accordingly, this notice of inquiry seeks to gain a better understanding of how the gap between the capabilities of modern networks and devices in today’s 9-1-1 system can be bridged, Barnett said. The NOI also seeks to ensure that individuals with disabilities receive the appropriate benefits from the NG 9-1-1 system, he added.

The NOI asks a comprehensive set of questions that address a number of issues related to the deployment of NG 9-1-1 services, including, but not limited to:

  • The technical feasibility and limitations of text messaging, video streaming and photos.
  • Consumer privacy issues, particularly related to the sharing of personal electronic medical data.
  • Development of technical and policy standards.
  • Consumer education and awareness.
  • Inter-governmental coordination and coordination within the public safety community.

Patrick Donovan, a PSHSB official working on the NG 9-1-1 NOI said the document seeks comment on other specialized NG 9-1-1 applications. For example, emergency calls will not only be able to be placed by individuals, but by automatically triggered devices such as highway and security cameras, alarms, environmental sensors, personnel medical devices and consumer electronics in automobiles, he said. “The NOI seeks comment on how the deployment of NG 911 will facilitate these device initiated emergency services,” he added.