Location tracking seems to be the most neglected, albeit crucial, aspect of E911 today. With over 150,000 emergency wireless calls being made in the U.S. each day, it’s good to see the FCC mandating the delivery of location data for 80 percent of cell phone calls by 2021 (the commission is requiring that carriers place GPS receivers in phones to deliver more specific location information).
The reason for these improvements is simple: while it’s true that many areas have implemented E911, the service primarily only allows public service access points (PSAPs) to determine the general location of a wireless caller’s origination. As opposed to a call made from a wireline phone, the exact location cannot always be pinpointed.
So, how does location tracking work as it currently stands? For wireline phones, 911 calls are routed by the public switched telephone network (PSTN) to a facility that uses dedicated technology (like a selective routing database, for example) to match the origination of the call to the network location. Once this has been achieved, the call is delivered to the appropriate PSAP with location data displayed, allowing professionals to take immediate action as necessary. Of course, there is a difference in how location is determined for different types of calls based on the type of originating device or network. This explains the challenge of determining the precise location of wireless 911 calls.
It’s vital, however, that advancements are made in this area. Consider the vast impact that enhanced location tracking can have on emergency response and public safety: the kind that allows emergency responders to identify exactly where a dying person is to save his or her life. The kind that rapidly pinpoints the location of a suspect in crime or a terrorist. In today’s day and age, the use cases for improved location tracking are endless, and its importance simply can’t be stressed enough.
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