Achieving Fully Interoperable NG9-1-1

Date: February 1, 2018
Subject: Achieving Fully-Interoperable Next Generation 9‑1‑1
From: Martha Carter, APCO President

Dear APCO International Member,

As we enter the new year, the Executive Committee and I wanted to provide an update on efforts to modernize the nation’s 9‑1‑1 systems and ensure that equipment and services are interoperable. We believe that APCO’s advocacy for federal legislation, creating a shared vision of interoperability, and near-term opportunities to improve NG9‑1‑1 deployments will gain additional traction in the months ahead. Above all, we must focus on achieving true interoperability, meaning PSAPs are able to share information (including voice and multimedia data) in seamless fashion without the need for “add on” components or additional costs to your agencies after making the transition to NG9‑1‑1. In addition to actions APCO is taking on your behalf, we suggest some steps you can take going forward to help impress our interoperability needs upon NG9‑1‑1 equipment and service providers.

Accelerating the Transition to Next Generation 9‑1‑1
APCO continues to advocate for congressional action to support NG9‑1‑1. Across the country, 9‑1‑1 authorities need a significant one-time boost to bring 9‑1‑1 into the 21st century. PSAPs need comprehensive upgrades to equipment and services to take advantage of the advanced IP-based technologies that can improve emergency communications.

There seems to be genuine interest from lawmakers. In fact, identical bills have been introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives that call for an expansion of federal grant support to help state and local governments deploy interoperable NG9‑1‑1 systems. APCO is working with both political parties in the House and Senate to ensure a final law will have what’s needed. Funding is obviously critical, but ensuring seamless interoperability is equally important and should be an immediate focus of us all.

Ensuring Seamless Interoperability
APCO recently offered suggestions to the National 9‑1‑1 Office on how to use an existing (but limited) grant program to create models for interoperable NG9‑1‑1 systems. Interoperability for NG9‑1‑1 goes beyond IP connectivity, which is still a challenge, and includes the equipment and services needed to enable PSAPs to process and share multiple forms of data. This means a member of the public can send a multimedia message (e.g., photo or video) to a PSAP that in turn is capable of receiving, analyzing, and sharing this data with a field responder or another PSAP to render an emergency response. PSAPs should also be able to dynamically share resources and reroute calls, which is particularly valuable during high call volume periods and major disasters affecting PSAP operations. These capabilities should be possible regardless of what call handling equipment, computer aided dispatch, or connecting networks (such as Emergency Services IP Networks (ESInets)) the PSAPs have deployed. In fact, it is critical that PSAPs have the freedom to choose whatever solution is best for them, knowing that doing so will not limit their ability to interoperate with other PSAPs who choose different equipment and service providers.

We believe you will agree that your PSAPs should not have to face costly after-the-fact integrations or specialized interfaces resulting from proprietary, non-interoperable deployments. Without an explicit requirement that NG9‑1‑1 systems be fully interoperable, deployments will be inconsistent and limited, and NG9‑1‑1 will be on course to repeat the challenges that have historically plagued PSAPs.

As you know, in the broader communications marketplace, widely deployed commercial standards have become mainstream across the globe, resulting in highly competitive and interoperable devices and networks that meet consumer expectations. The time is right for our PSAPs to similarly expect solutions that match this pace of innovation. This will drive new, interoperable approaches to NG9‑1‑1 networks, functions, and services.

There is no silver bullet to ensuring interoperability, but creating a shared vision and inviting innovative equipment and service providers to work with public safety to achieve our goals will go a long way.

Questions 9‑1‑1 Authorities and PSAPs Should be Asking Prospective Equipment and Service Providers
To increase the likelihood that NG9‑1‑1 equipment and services are fully interoperable, consider asking the following questions when interacting with NG9‑1‑1 equipment and service providers:

  • Can you guarantee that our NG9‑1‑1 solution and other IP-based equipment will be seamlessly interoperable with other solutions and equipment, including across state boundaries? For example, will our PSAP will be able to transfer voice and multimedia data (text, pictures, video) to any other PSAP that has a different provider’s equipment or service or is on a different network, including across jurisdictional boundaries? If so, please explain your methodology for doing so and how your solution/equipment will communicate with that of other providers.
  • Can you guarantee that our NG9‑1‑1 solution will be seamlessly interoperable with the networks that deliver 9‑1‑1 calls from the public (wireless and wireline networks)?
  • Will you guarantee your solution to be interoperable without additional upgrades and new costs to the 9‑1‑1 Authority/PSAP?
  • Will your CPE, CAD, RMS, GIS, or mobile app products be able to seamlessly share and exchange data with other companies’ products, without the need for special interfaces or additional costs?

This isn’t an exhaustive list of questions, but it provides a good starting point for 9‑1‑1 professionals whose interest is in obtaining and implementing truly interoperable systems to serve the public. For PSAPs that have already executed contracts for NG9‑1‑1 services and equipment, these questions can also help to begin addressing any lack of interoperability with existing or planned deployments. APCO is committed to partnering with policymakers, the commercial industry, and other associations that share our vision to ensure seamless interoperability for NG9‑1‑1. We are here to assist you, and we want to be sure that you have accurate information about NG9‑1‑1. We will keep you informed as we continue to work on your behalf to ensure NG9‑1‑1 brings you the interoperable services and capabilities you need.

Thank you for your service to public safety and your commitment to APCO. Please feel free to contact APCO with any interoperability questions or suggestions at broadband@apcointl.org.

Sincerely,
Martha Carter, President
APCO International