trying to text about an emergency

Interoperability lab to test next-gen 911 services

TeleCommunications Systems Inc., an Annapolis, Md., a provider of secure mobile systems, will open a lab this month to  help developers of call-handling systems test new next-generation 911 applications and services before they are deployed by emergency call centers.

In addition to handling emergency phone calls, public safety answering points (PSAPs) are preparing to receive text-to-911 messages from the public. TCS’s Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) Interoperability Lab would help test interfaces that will process the messages and otherwise ensure “a smooth path deployment,” TCS said.

The Next Generation 911 project is an initiative to update 911 service infrastructure throughout the United States to handle the public’s increasing reliance on mobile devices in emergencies. In addition to voice and text, the NG-911 plan calls for eventually supporting transmissions of images, video and data to 911 call centers.

TCS said the ESInet Interoperability Lab would be the first site where call-handling solution vendors can test the interfaces and software that will process these text messages. Vendors will connect to the lab remotely through a secure Web portal connected to the TCS lab, located in Seattle.

TCS said it completed the nation’s first successful cellular 911 service a decade ago. It now offers cellular and Voice-over-IP services and supports existing wireless and VoIP-enhanced 911 calls. The firm’s offerings include National Emergency Number Association (NENA) standard-compliant call-routing and call-handling systems.

Thomas Ginter, TCS’s safety and security group vice president, said the Interoperability Lab is designed to “work as a catalyst” for the move to mobile 911 services. Using the lab, public safety centers and call management vendors would be able to “move forward confidently, knowing that their systems which process those messages meet NENA i3 standards."

The nation’s major wireless carriers have committed to delivering text messages to 911 emergency answering points. 

In the meantime, the Federal Communications Commission wants to speed up the timetable for rolling out the services. The agency recently asked for public comment on whether carriers have the ability to begin to offer secure text-to-911 service by the end of the year. 

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