In the decades since it was first adopted in Western Europe, 112 has become the most prevalent emergency services number worldwide. While there are significant exceptions to its adoption, widespread implementation of 112 has obvious value, ensuring people know what to dial in an emergency wherever they are. Likewise, standardization of the underlying technologies helps provide reliable emergency services in any country, on any device, and in any network condition.
Location intelligence is critical to emergency services operations. Callers may be unable to provide such information to Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) operators, and with some 75% of emergency calls now placed using mobile devices, it is impossible to rely on the fixed, physical locations of landlines. Recent ETSI specifications for Advanced Mobile Location (AML) provide for an innovative, standards-based approach to locating emergency callers. While handset-based location intelligence solutions such as AML have tremendous potential to save lives, they also carry limitations that must be addressed with proven network-based methodologies. Further standardization of both approaches, as well as agreement on minimum accuracy, reliability, and speed requirements for location data, will help save more lives.
Limitations of Device-Based Data in Locating Emergency Callers
AML is prevalent on user devices, enabled by default on all recent versions of Android and iOS in any country in which it has been adopted. The technology automatically forwards global positioning system (GPS) or Wi-Fi location information, whichever is more accurate, to PSAPs when an emergency call is made. While useful, those two mechanisms carry inherent weaknesses.
The reliability of GPS is hampered by the availability of satellite coverage, which can be particularly problematic in urban areas and interior spaces. Likewise, the accuracy of Wi-Fi location information is limited by its crowd-sourced nature, which often fails to reflect the current network state. In addition, AML excludes billions of non-smartphone users worldwide and does not inherently support inbound roamers.
Further, handset-based location intelligence methods may not be fast enough for emergency services needs. It is critical that PSAP operators receive location information immediately to properly dispatch first responders and save lives. Technologies such as AML can be delayed by minutes due to factors such as remote activation of handset services and fixing connections to GPS satellites. Therefore, while AML plays a vital role in extending and standardizing location intelligence, it is wise to consider it alongside network-based approaches.
The Role of Network-Based Location Intelligence
The European Emergency Number Association (EENA) reports between 40% and 66% of emergency calls cannot use AML to determine location. That shortcoming jeopardizes response. The SS8 platform provides network-based location intelligence using GMLC, SMLC, LMF, and other network functions while also integrating with AML solutions, enhancing reliability, accuracy, and speed. Network services can be used to validate data from handset-based techniques or as an alternative when those methods fail or are not available.
The SS8 platform automatically assesses all potential sources of emergency caller location data and pushes robust location intelligence to PSAP operators in real time, with no action required by the analyst. The information is typically available in a screen pop provided by the time an operator answers an emergency call, making it seamless within the response process. It is device-agnostic, working equally well across old, new, and future devices, as well as for roaming users. SS8’s solution also provides monitoring, analysis, and reporting of location intelligence services for continuous optimization and auditability to ensure quality and compliance.
Network-based location methods also scale with advances in network generations. The faster data capture in 5G networks, for example, accelerates location-calculation time, and the growing density of cell sites will improve network-based location accuracy further. Higher-quality location intelligence enables faster emergency response, which reduces costs for both Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and emergency services and saves lives.
Practical Concerns for Standardization and Deployment
Caller-location solutions must be flexible and capable of integrating with emerging technologies such as Next Generation 112 and 911 (NG112, NG911) and IoT devices. Custom-built solutions focused only on handset-based positioning methodologies can reduce the effectiveness of the platform and make it complex and expensive to update.
Using location data from all available network and handset sources, SS8 is advancing a vision of optimized speed, accuracy, and reliability for emergency services. We support the development, standardization, and adoption of both handset and network-based positioning methodologies and encourage sub-cell accuracy techniques to correlate and enhance AML. We are already working with EU governments to improve higher accuracy location reliability, and with regulators to establish minimum accuracy, reliability, and speed mandates across the EU.
SS8’s hybrid, 3GPP-compliant location solution is built for ease of implementation and supports emergency calls from conventional phone handsets as well as computers, digital assistants, and smart appliances. It is independent of any specific network technology or vendor and designed for MNOs that may run heterogeneous networks with traffic ranging from 2G to 5G, providing a valuable, scalable location solution for modern MNOs and emergency services.
About Stuart Walsh
Stuart Walsh is a consultative technical sales leader with over 25 years of experience helping customers deliver solutions for success. As the leader of the product division at Creativity Software, a wholly owned subsidiary of SS8 Networks, Stuart is passionate about introducing next generation solutions and services to network operators and enterprises and driving business growth. Stuart also has a depth experience in voice and data applications for both Enterprise and Service Provider customers. You can view his LinkedIn profile here.
About SS8 Networks
As a leader in Lawful and Location Intelligence, SS8 helps make societies safer. Our commitment is to extract, analyze, and visualize the critical intelligence that gives law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and emergency services the real-time insights that help save lives. Our high performance, flexible, and future-proof solutions also enable mobile network operators to achieve regulatory compliance with minimum disruption, time, and cost. SS8 is trusted by the largest government agencies, communications providers, and systems integrators globally.
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LocationWise delivers the highest audited network location accuracy worldwide, providing active and passive location intelligence for emergency services, law enforcement, and mobile network operators.
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