By Roach, Ronald
Black Issues in Higher Education , Vol. 22, No. 10
Researchers from leading universities and technology companies demonstrated for the first time the next-generation 911 solutions being developed in response to the growing popularity of Internet-based phones and other Internet-enabled communication devices. Activists have been clamoring for the industry to explore ways to ensure that users can receive the help they need in emergencies. The show case event was held at the National Press Club in Washington in late May.
"Internet phone customers are expected to top 25 million in the next several years. In order for this rapid adoption to persist and innovation in consumer communications to continue to develop, it is critically important that there be a technically sound and scalable 911 solution in place to ensure public safety for all Americans," says Dr. Henning Schulzrinne, chair of computer science at Columbia University's Fu Foundation, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The demonstration highlighted the NG9-1-1 system, which can deliver emergency calls from a nomadic or mobile Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) user to a public safety answering point, or PSAP. The existing circuit-based 911 system is limited in its ability to support new technology like VoIP telephone calls, in which a user's Internet protocol, or IP, address is not specifically assigned to any one geographic location. This makes it challenging for 911 dispatchers to accurately identify a caller's location. The NG9-1-1 system features IP-capable PSAPs.
"Despite the Federal Communications Commission's latest ruling requiring VoIP providers to offer 911 service, technological obstacles mean there is no quick fix for all VoIP scenarios using today's 911 network. …