GeoWorld October 2012

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Regulatory: Evolution of the U.S. Location Mandate With widespread adoption of mobile phones and the need to accurately locate callers not tethered to a fixed address, the FCC first adopted an Enhanced 911 (E911) location mandate (Phase I) in 1995 (see Figure 3). This stipulated that wireless network opera- tors must identify the phone number and cell-phone tower used by emergency callers, following a request by a PSAP. E911 is paid for by the imposition of a monthly sur- charge on subscriber mobile phone bills. At the time, wireless operators used various location methods to comply with the mandate. However, as the accu- racy of location technologies improved, emergency responders and consumer-advocacy groups called for FCC to strengthen its mandate to reflect improved accuracy capabilities. The Phase II updated mandate, issued in September 2010, outlines a gradual strengthening of accuracy thresholds and compliance areas across handset- based technologies, such as GPS, and network-based technologies, such as RFPM and U-TDOA, where the location capability is driven by software or hardware respectively in the wireless operator's network. This new mandate has been embraced by the U.S. public-safety community and wireless industry as the best way to ensure a robust public-safety infra- structure. In the next five years, FCC guidelines will again evolve by expanding the methods available to emergency callers to dial 911, including text, e-mail and video. Technological: Pinpointing Location with High Accuracy The United States provides a test case to disprove objections that high-accuracy location solutions require expensive up-front investment that doesn't justify the commensurate increase in accuracy. Besides the obvi- ous response that it's impossible to put a price tag on technology that saves human lives, Figure 4 illustrates that an investment in high accuracy can produce cost savings for public-safety agencies. Consider two location solutions: Solution A is accu- rate to within 50 meters, and Solution B is accurate to within 150 meters. To locate the same emergency caller, authorities using Solution B need to cover an area nine times larger than those using Solution A. The Solution B authorities need to deploy nine times the number of resources or take nine times as long to locate the emergency caller. Both outcomes result Figure 4. To locate the same target, authorities using Solution B need to cover an area nine times larger than those using Solution A. in increased expense, and taking longer to locate an emergency caller could mean the difference between life and death. Current State of 911 Although technological, societal and regulatory changes will continue to occur, the U.S. 911 system is in a state of digesting recent changes and implement- ing solutions. The current updated FCC mandate is less than two years old, and, although its regulations impose significant change on local PSAPs, these changes are designed to phase in over a period of years, with ample extensions and exclusions. Technology is always evolving, but the market has spoken, and GPS, RFPM or, more likely, a hybrid com- bination of the two is positioned to dominate 911 location-technology choices going forward. Societal changes may occur more slowly than other types, but when they take place, they often spread rapidly, such as the use of social media. They're also often genera- tional, with young people typically more likely to adopt new ways of communicating. Whatever happens, emergency callers can be assured that their calls will be answered and help will be dis- patched quickly to them, just like the callers on that old rotary phone in Alabama four decades ago. Manlio Allegra is president, CEO and co-founder of Polaris Wireless; e-mail: OCTOBER 2O12 / WWW . GEOPLA CE . COM 29

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