Ready for the M2 Generation?

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This past week at the NENA 2013 conference and Expo in Charlotte North Carolina, the big topic was text to 911 becoming a reality as a follow on to the agreement signed by the four major wireless carriers, NENA, APCO and the FCC.

Although in the future, pictures, video and other forms of multimedia will find their way into the 911 center, it’s commonly agreed that the “low hanging fruit” is allowing text messaging to reach 911 centers directly by addressing the digits 911 as the destination, and the commitment is to deliver this by 2014.

In the past, there has been some hesitancy since text messaging is what is known as a store and forward technology that provides minimal levels of service guarantees. Although this is technically true, during times of natural disaster, such as experienced with super storm Sandy, the switched voice telecommunications infrastructure was out of service, although text messaging still managed to carry through much of the time.

This is caused the change in thinking within the industry, in that although text messaging does have its deficiencies, during times where all other means of communications become unavailable, text messaging may just be one of the last working means of communication able to reach public safety.

Of course the flip side of that story is text messaging being used by persons who are deaf, deaf blind, and hard of hearing as well as individuals with speech disabilities. For this group of folks, text messaging is a primary mechanism for communicating, as TTY machines are far too bulky to carry around, clumsy to operate with acoustic couplers or requiring a direct connection into a telephone line and even then, they often are meet with communications or technology failures at the PSAPs even though each center must maintain a working TTY.

Regardless of that, let’s assume that the industry will self right itself, solve many of these problems, and move forward with multimedia Next Generation 911 communications.

For a the bulk of us in the latter part of our careers, we seen Generation X, and Generation Y, but we are now faced with generation M2 or M squared. This generation is characterized by the lives of 8 to 18-year-olds today, their immersion in multimedia (M2) and communicating using new technologies never before available.

There will come a time when “calling someone” will become as antiquated as “dialing a phone” (remember those rotary phones with dials?) And a new phrase will crop up. “Hey! When you get to where you’re going, make sure you ‘COMM’ me and let me know that you got there okay.”

Once that becomes the average day-to-day communications method, emergency communications is going to have to rapidly adapt. The amount of additional data flooding an emergency center with each and every communication event will be overwhelming for an individual, and just as Run Recommendations are provided to call takers and dispatchers today based on unit availability and automatic vehicle location (AVL) positioning, I envision a futuristic heads-up display for the call taker.

In addition to the 260 characters or so that are available on ANI and ALI, personal medical record information, building information, data from smart building monitors in the way of temperature sensors and other information, will all be correlated for the call taker using Computer Assisted Automation.

Think of it as a “Run Recommendation” on steroids. It’s not an autonomous system that is taking control of the situation, it simply computer automation analyzing and modeling current and projected variables, and matching that against a pre-established database of potential outcomes. Based on these facts, and past history, the recommended action is this. What “this” is, is entirely up to your imagination and will be the prime category for the patent trolls.

So the moral of this week’s blog, is “NG911 is NOT coming; it’s already here.”


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Until next week. . . dial carefully.

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