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When phones were hardwired, routing location information for emergency calls was much simpler. As voice over IP, or VoIP, took over as the primary telephony architecture, many systems relied on networking technologies to provide location services through an Emergency Response Location on the actual LAN switch. This system would identify information, such as the campus, building, floor and fire alarm zone, to facilitate the information exchange between an IP phone and the Enhanced 911, or E911, operator. While information is easily gathered if the caller can provide it, mobility provides distinct challenges.
Some companies rely on employees using Wi-Fi, thereby connecting to a switch, which enables some of the ERL information transfer. However, this option isn't always sufficient for a couple reasons. First is that you cannot count on people using Wi-Fi calling. Second, it's hard to predict the actual range of a call, and there can be a problem if a caller is outside the building and moving around. Many devices have an ERL record that can tell where the phone is for emergency purposes, but if the caller is unable to communicate, verification becomes difficult.
Options for managing location information
Cloud telephony systems can offer cloud-based mapping for public safety answering points, where the provider routes emergency calls to the appropriate PSAP based on predetermined information. Some cloud providers enable users to allow location-based services to provide their location at the start of a session, while others are working to provide better E911 location information based on roving location data. In some cases, E911 itself is a cloud-based service.
One part of Ray Baum's Act, which goes into effect in January 2022, requires devices that move around the office and all off-premises phones be in compliance with E911 laws. Ray Baum's Act emphasizes the importance of making dispatchable location information for all 911 calls available to PSAPs, regardless of the technology platform.
Organizations also have the option of a service like E911 Anywhere, which matches 911 calls to the correct PSAP in real time, while maintaining Federal Communications Commission and state regulations. These services generally have a small client that loads on end-user devices to record location information. Calls made from inside a building can be cellular, Wi-Fi or landline, and the service will route them accordingly.
It's still early days in this area of E911 location information tracking, so there is little competition in the market for these services. However, expect to see other services spring up over this year. Without a doubt, we will see more services, as well as more cooperation between intermediaries and providers of softphones and other VoIP communications services.
Dig Deeper on VoIP and IP telephony
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