Rave Mobile Safety unveils 911 location-accuracy solution for wireless callers indoors, outdoors
DENVER—Rave Mobile Safety today announced the “controlled release” of Smart911Location, a new feature of the company’s Smart911 platform that leverages information from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other commercial infrastructure to provide enhanced location accuracy when 911 is contacted via a wireless device.
“We’ve been doing it with clients—live—for the past few months, and it works,” Todd Piett, chief product officer for Rave Mobile Safety, said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “There are variations that we haven’t tested yet, in terms of types of buildings and things like that. But the ability to take the handset location and show it live on the 911 screen? That works.”
In addition to data gathered official government sources, Google and Apple mapping functions leverage crowdsourcing techniques that have been proven to be very accurate in highly trafficked areas, indoors and outdoors, Piett said. By utilizing information from commercial-wireless assets, Smart911Location is able to provide better location information—including Z-axis or floor information, where mapping has been done—as well as information associated with the caller’s speed of travel and direction, he said
In addition, building owners can provide information about the location of their wireless assets to help improve location accuracy for wireless 911 callers, Piett said.
“It gets me down to within 5-meter accuracy here in the building, and it’s very accurate on the floors, too,” he said.
With this in mind, Rave Mobile Safety hopes to work with fire marshals, building-inspection departments and other government sources to help develop a system that automatically maps an area or building without interfering with an inspector’s primary jobs while working inside a facility, Piett said.
“I think it has a lot of good potential, but there’s a lot of process stuff that we’ve got to work out,” he said. “We’ve got to make it brain-dead simple for that fire marshal, so he doesn’t forget things.”
Rave Mobile Safety will be testing Smart911Location and working with interested third parties during the summer, with the hope that it will be able to release the test results as early as August, Piett said.
“The only testing that we’re really doing is: How good is the location accuracy?” he said. “You can find out by turning on Google Maps on your phone, because it’s the exact same set of data. But we want to do it in a much more methodical method, so we can say, ‘If you’re in a basement, this is what it looks like. If you’re in a basement with good Wi-Fi, this is what it looks like. If you’re in the top floor of a building, this is what it looks like.’”
Utilizing these commercial technologies is a key component of the FCC’s recent 911 location-accuracy order.
“For years, consumers have wondered why 911 cannot receive the same accurate location information as seen with popular consumer apps; we have now closed that gap,” Rave Mobile Safety President and CEO Tom Axbey said in a prepared statement. “We’ve been working with select customers to create a solution that improves emergency response, seamlessly integrates into existing processes and exceeds FCC requirements for indoor location accuracy.”
Piett said there are other benefits associated with using the Smart911 Location approach.
“There’s always been this desire to get commercial location, for a couple of reasons,” Piett said. “One, because it’s kind of future-proofed. Everyone recognizes that, if the technology that public safety is using to locate callers is the same one that commerce apps, navigation apps and social media are using, those companies—both the carriers and the operating-system providers—are incented to always make that location [information] better.
“So, the fact that some office building might not have great location is not just an issue for public safety, it’s an issue for all of the people that want to have those guys who are sitting in the offices wanting Amazon Prime to deliver to them immediately, because they need to have better location services.”
While Rave Mobile Safety’s focus is to provide more accurate location data from wireless 911 calls, the company plans to open its application program interface (API) to other vendors, which can develop their own applications. For instance, Piett said he believes the location-accuracy solution for 911 callers also could be leveraged to provide the indoor location of firefighters and other first responders—something incident commanders have long wanted.
“We don’t typically supply those types of apps, but one of the goals of exposing this API is that [we can say,] ‘Motorola or whoever, if you want to push the responder’s location into this thing, we’ll also display that on the 911 console,’” Piett said. “So, they’ll be able to see where the caller is and the three responders. It’s easy.”