North Americans are fortunate to have at their disposal an emergency service built into their telephone networks that allows the location of a 911 call to be transmitted to the target of the call almost immediately. With the interconnection of computer networks and great databases of information that can be tapped into, this service is straightforward where land-based public switched telephone networks are concerned. The source of the 911 call is fixed very quickly, routed appropriately, and comes up on the dispatcher’s screen.
But, what about mobile phones? Mobile phones aren’t tied down to one particular address or location. They can move from one communication cell to another. What happens when one of the millions of subscribers to a cell phone network calls 911 in an emergency?
Luckily enough for those mobile subscribers, requirements for Wireless Enhanced 911 Services have already been established. These services are based on the high availability of connection and connection-less networks to relay data to the correct target quickly.
Basic 911 Service: requires that all 911 calls are routed to the nearest call center for relaying to a Public Safety Answering Point, regardless of the network being used.
Enhanced 911 Service (Phase 1): requires that the location for 911 calls can be pinpointed to the nearest cell phone tower within six minutes of a request made by the Public Safety Answering Point.
Enhanced 911 Service (Phase 2): requires that the location for 911 calls can be pinpointed to the latitude and longitude of the mobile phone, within 300 meters, within six minutes of a request made by the Public Safety Answering point.
Furthermore, a later phase of the project is researching technology to be able to locate mobile phones via triangulation or the use of Global Positioning Systems. Propagating this information securely to where it is needed will surely test the speed and connectivity of the Internet as minutes could mean lives.