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Old 09-01-2008, 07:59 AM #1
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BobbyB BobbyB is offline
In Remembrance
BobbyB's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 4,609
15 yr Member
Lightbulb Next generation of 911 calls will be Internet-based

Next generation of 911 calls will be Internet-based

08:04 AM CDT on Sunday, August 31, 2008

By Renee C. Lee / Houston Chronicle

HOUSTON – Researchers are working on a new way to call for help.

Within two to five years, you could send a text message to 911. Or transmit photos of a purse-snatcher caught in the act or photos of an accident.

It's part of Next Generation 911, and emergency districts in the Houston area are gearing up. Pilot programs in Denton and Tarrant counties are planned in the next few years.

Ideally, you could use any communication device from anywhere to reach 911.

"We're all excited," said Sharon Counterman, deputy director of the Greater Harris County 911 Emergency Network, which includes Fort Bend County. "It's something that will increase what we do for the public and serve them much better. Many younger people believe they can do a text message today to 911, and they cannot."

Mobile devices have altered the way people communicate, yet 911 networks haven't kept pace, say emergency-communication officials.

Many 911 systems still operate on 40-year-old analog technology, from when 911 was introduced. Other systems have made the transition to digital technology but still rely on analog to get calls to an answering center.

Next Generation, however, is Internet-based, so it can communicate with all devices regardless of format.

The National Emergency Number Association, representing the 911 industry, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Commerce are pushing the concept.

The federal government has spent about $5.5 million in the past two years on research and development to design what officials hope will become a seamless, nationwide 911 system.

"In this era where everybody is texting, it is very imperative that we accommodate the way people communicate," said Paul Brubaker, research and innovative technology administrator for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Texas A&M University and Columbia University have received federal grants as part of the project to build an operational model, and researchers have tested it in five cities, including College Station, during the past five months.

During a demonstration last month in College Station, 911 officials from across the state got a chance to see the model receive text messages and live video.

In-vehicle systems, such as OnStar, also could share information with a 911 operator with Next Generation equipment, Mr. Brubaker said.

"Essentially, since Next Generation is Internet-protocol- based, it's limitless on what you can do," said Walter Magnussen, co-director of the Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center at Texas A&M.

Bobby Wright, executive director of the Galveston County Emergency Communication District, likes the system, but is concerned that it might provide too much data to handle.

"On a typical 911 call, you have one person dealing with a call," Mr. Wright said. "If you give them a lot of data, you have to give them a way to digest it all."

What's next?: New 911 system
Researchers are working a next-generation 911 system that will route calls through the Internet, increasing the information that can be sent.

•Federal officials plan to complete the development stage by the end of summer and the transitional planning by the end of November.

•Next year, the framework and standards for the new network will be available to local districts so they can begin to upgrade their networks.

•It will take two years or more for local districts to move to the new system, depending on their existing equipment and funding.


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