RapidSOS partners with Google to deliver improved wireless 911 caller location to PSAPs
RapidSOS this week announced a partnership with Google to deliver Android Emergency Location Service (ELS) information to public-safety answering points (PSAPs) for free, providing U.S. 911 centers with a method to access improved wireless-caller location much more quickly to enhance incident-response efforts.
RapidSOS CEO Michael Martin said that ELS is “very similar” to Apple Hybridized Emergency Location (HELO), which uses device-based hybrid location—technology that leverages information from Wi-Fi access points and myriad sensors on a device, as well as traditional GPS—to locate an emergency caller.
“We actually piloted with them [Google] back in January, in three 911 centers around the country,” Martin said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “It was a fairly small pilot, but they’ve now announced that, as of September, that we’re deploying this across the United States.
“In our pilot, we saw a median accuracy of 37 meters, versus wireless Phase II [via current E-911 technology], which can be over 150 meters.”
RapidSOS provides a method to deliver ELS data quickly to PSAPs via its secure NG911 Clearinghouse, which is offered as a free service to 911 centers, according to Martin. Current E-911 technology often requires call-takers to engage in a time-consuming bidding process to obtain location information, but RapidSOS typically is able to deliver enhanced caller-location data as the 911 call reaches the PSAP, he said.
“What we provide is that very accurate location immediately with the call, for every caller today, via a free service to the PSAP,” Martin said. “[Caller-location information] is updated throughout the call, so there’s no need to bid—it’s all automatic. So, it removes a lot of the operational challenges with that legacy system, as well.”
PSAPs can access location information delivered by RapidSOS—the company announced a partnership with Apple earlier this year—via two methods, Martin said.
“It’s a software update for every major call-handling, CAD, mapping, integrated application—wherever the 911 center wants the data, we can provide it for free,” Martin said. “Or, with some of the older systems—where there can be a bit of an upgrade cycle—we also provide a free, secure web tool that a PSAP can use to start receiving the data immediately, as well.”
Known as RapidLite, this RapidSOS web-portal platform at www.rapidlite.com is designed to be easy for PSAPs to use, Martin said.
“Any PSAP essentially can create an account in about 10 minutes, and then we go through a credentialing-authorization process,” he said. “In 48 hours, a PSAP can to receive data directly on their screen.”
RapidSOS service is free to public safety, but provider partners compensate RapidSOS to deliver their information to 911 centers, Martin said.
Improving location accuracy for wireless 911 callers is a priority for public safety, as about 80% of 911 calls are made from wireless devices, according to statistics from the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). Without accurate and reliable location information, public safety’s response often is delayed or requires the utilization of more valuable resources than would be needed if the accurate location of an incident were provided.
Martin said that wireless carriers often have very good location information about 911 callers, but they lacked a mechanism to deliver it to PSAPs. RapidSOS has established a next-generation 911 (NG911) system that does not transmit voice calls but does deliver supplemental data, such as location information.
“When we studied this issue over the last six years, one of the things we saw was that sometimes the carriers have very accurate location, but that location isn’t actually appearing at the PSAP,” Martin said. “The challenge is that you’re trying to squeeze that location data through this legacy public switched telephone network. There are all sorts of technical, business-model and operational issues that prevent that from occurring.
“What we provide is an end-to-end next-generation 911 system. But, for the PSAP, you don’t have to stand up a full ESInet and all of the infrastructure. We’ve made it available as a simple software update [to PSAP systems] or via our RapidLite service. Underneath the hood, you’re getting a fully secured, i3-standards-compliant next-generation-911 system; it’s just a much easier implementation.”
Although RapidSOS is best known for delivering location information to 911 centers, the company’s platform can be leveraged to provide other types of useful data, Martin said.
“You get precise location information for all of your 911 calls coming from Apple, Google or Uber, or getting a variety of conditional data feeds, as well—Uber trip information, driver information, license plate, data for the vehicle,” he said.
“If the PSAP chooses, it can access some of the health information that we have. We also have a variety of IoT sensor data that’s available. So, PSAPs now can choose the type of data that they want to receive. We’ve seen some PSAPs that want to receive everything, and some are just very focused on location.”
Martin said it is important that PSAPs are able to choose whether to receive this supplemental data, so each 911 center can customize the inputs in a manner than does not create a data-overload environment for PSAP personnel. This promises to be especially critical during the next few years, when information from billions of Internet of Things (IoT) potentially will be integrated into the emergency-response system.
If processed properly, data from these myriad devices could greatly enhance public safety’s ability to respond to emergency incidents better and more quickly, Martin said.
“We absolutely believe in a world where all of the devices are sharing life-saving information directly to 911 and first responder,” Martin said. “We’re starting to think about all of the other types of information all of the other types of information that—if properly analyzed and curated—could help facilitate a faster response, as well … We’ve announced our work with Apple, Google, Uber, Waze and Microsoft on this, and we have a number of other partnerships coming.
“We believe that it’s going to totally transform the paradigm of response, which, for the last 50 years, was centered on basically a voice-only system—in the middle of your emergency, you somehow had to get out your phone, call and have a conversation, and you had to speak everything from your location to what’s occurring—to a paradigm where increasingly our connected world can provide all of this rich information around this incident.”