Is Next Generation Emergency location all over the map?

June 22, 2022

What is Next Generation 9-1-1/112?

Significant technological advancements over the last few decades, and transitions towards ever more mobile, networked societies, means our system needs to keep pace; over 80% of emergency calls are from a mobile device and a growing number also from IP services. 

Yet most emergency calling centers still use analog rather than digital technologies, and will require significant upgrades to become a digital Internet Protocol 9-1-1/112 system, aka Next Generation 9-1-1/ 112 (NG9-1-1 or NG112) service. 

Next Generation emergency calling will require:

  • the ability to send and receive data in real time,
  • receive calls from non-traditional sources,
  • share data between centers and other agencies,
  • and route calls and resources using real-time location information.

This “Next Generation” emergency calling system will enable the public to make voice, video, or text calls via ANY communications device over an IP-based network, with calling centres receiving rich data plus additions such as motor vehicle collision or medical alert/bracelet notifications. 

The planned NG9-1-1/ 112 framework will rely on an Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) using a delivery method referred to as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP).  SIP is a common protocol used in Voice over Internet (VoIP) technology, which works alongside other application layer protocols, to control multimedia communications over the Internet.

VoIP technology has the capability to deliver voice, video and picture content over the Internet and is regarded as one of the most cost-efficient ways to communicate anytime, and anywhere. All VoIP needs is a computer/laptop/mobile with internet connectivity, and with over 90% of US citizens using, or having access to, the internet regularly, it’s a reliable technology framework to use.  

The transition to Next Gen

Next Gen 9-1-1/ 112 hopes to enhance and improve an essential service, creating an information rich Public Safety ecosystem, that’s efficient, cohesive, resilient, and future-conscious…allowing data to flow seamlessly from Public to Responder Network. Disabled and special needs citizens in particular will benefit from this upgrade, enabling communications between 9-1-1/112 and their cell phone without the need for additional teletype devices. 

Challenges of Next Generation

Countries, states, and provinces have cited reservations around Next Gen implementation, in terms of technology, funding, security, policy and governance: 

  • With more complex data, telecommunication carriers will need further education and training,
  • and the older legacy systems will need ongoing maintenance whilst working on new ones, using a hybrid approach.
  • An IP-based system could also pose cyber security risks with possible new vectors for attack that could disrupt or disable PSAP operations.
  • Telecommunications is also a highly regulated industry, so the upgrade will require adjustments to laws, and adherence to regulations, and policies.

Where does Next Gen get location data from?

Location of a mobile device is the industry challenge today, so does this communication rich upgrade fix that? Does NG 9-1-1 now have the Dispatchable Address? “The street address of the caller, and additional information, such as room or floor number”.


The diagram below is a representation of what an NG service will look like. But an area of real interest is the LIS (Location Information Server) and the LVF (Location Validation Function) sitting within the ESInet.

I3 standard courtesy of NENA

“LIS” means Location Information Server, and refers to a repository of mappings such as IP addresses or geographic location values.

“LVF” is a functional element where civic location information is validated against authoritative GIS database information. A civic address is considered “valid” or adequate if found in that database.

The information behind how location is “validated” is complex. And more information can be found on that here:

Yet one thing seems very clear, the above document states that:

“NG9-1-1 relies on location”

But the accuracy of that location information is indistinguishable from the location accuracy currently provided through E9-1-1 for wireless, using GPS, Wi-Fi, and cell tower triangulation…. or z-axis. 

NG 9-1-1 and for 112 appears to be bringing with it the current challenges around indoor location. Why? Since one of these technologies or methods offers dispatchable location. As previously clarified handset -derived location and supplemental data only offer location on a “best-effort” basis and provide only an estimated location with a search area, not DISPATCHABLE ADDRESS:

Q. Does EED provide a civic or “dispatchable” address?

A. No. EED provides a high-accuracy, high-integrity geodetic or “latitude /longitude / uncertainty” location estimate. All practical location estimation technologies, including HELO, estimate user location by measuring noisy real-world signals. Estimates based on such measurements are limited in their accuracy and precision.” ~ Apple Inc.

So no door to knock on for Next Gen just yet.

Where does that leave our Next Generation Service?

Location is the foundation of the system. Without it, an emergency call, where the caller cannot communicate or verify a location, means time and lives will still be lost. But it’s already clear reservations around implementing the service aren’t just whether the technology works, but whether it’s cost efficient, interoperable, scalable, and adheres to regulations and policies. Next Gen also needs to ensure location information comes from an authoritative, validated data source before or during the call, ensuring correct routing and dispatch (more on that in next week’s article).

Additionally, NG relies on the localization element be received with or before the call; enabling the ECRF (Emergency Call Routing Function) and ESRP (Emergency Services Routing Proxy) to effectively route the call to the correct PSAP, aka “route before call”. Methods such as handset-derived location are unable to provide a location in the timeframes required for this service. 

What’s the solution?

For the Next Generation system to be truly successful, the location element needs to support it. Ignoring this part of the technology, whilst undergoing the NG upgrade, means the same problems haunting our system today, will continue to do so tomorrow. More data does not mean better data. Dispatchers will still be left pondering or deciphering what the caller’s location is, whether they receive a text message or a grainy video call. And that’s time wasted. 

Any upgrade needs to be seamless and efficient, using existing infrastructures that will evolve as the technology does. The information needs to be useable, immediate, and actionable, with privacy and security of location data being fundamental. 

Tag-based location is exactly that, a “bolt-on” technology which utilizes the current wi-fi ecosystem and integrates with the existing PSAP environments. It doesn’t require additional training or hardware, it symbiotically aligns with the IP network so when the mobile emergency call is placed, the location arrives at the PSAP at the time the call is answered, providing accurate indoor and vertical location. Simple.

Information sources for article: