The Future of 9-1-1

Pipes and Stovepipes

Posted by sip911 on October 2, 2008

Yikes! Pipes!

We were excited to see a very thoughtful and informed post by David Aylward at COMCARE about, amongst other things, how we need to move from a transport-oriented approach to one that puts a much greater role on the application layer,  I highly recommend reading the entire article, here.

Here’s part (emphasis mine)

“For the past several years, in the emergency space there has tended to be a very strong focus on the transport layer, almost ignoring the application layer. This translates into “building interoperable emergency networks and systems” as opposed to “linking legacy systems with software.” The first is very expensive, and can’t be the solution anyway as all the relevant organizations are never going to all be on the same network. But yet we continue to pour billions of dollars into building new pipes, while starving the application side.”

And his prescription for change?  Use IP and open software to allow interfaces to occur between systems and not try to connect together just the endpoints

“…the only way to make rapid progress on inter-domain, inter-jurisdictional, and inter-everything else safety information sharing is to focus on the application layer: convert every communication into Internet Protocol and focus on what needs to happen “in the middle” and with “interfaces to the middle” instead of the end points”

Hear, hear!

When technologists, like Henning and his team at Columbia, tackle this problem, the solution is simple:  use software, IP and the SIP protocol to interconnect systems to deliver 9-1-1 calls to the endpoints while allowing those systems to interface with each other.  Detailed approaches have been offered.  Early trials have occurred.

So why aren’t we, the industry, further along?  Well, again, I think David makes a strong case:

“The safety market is relatively small, and so balkanized in its decison making and purchasing (120,000+ individual agencies), that it is not an easy market to crack. Nor are the individual domains (EMS, 9-1-1, fire, police, transportation, emergency management) calling for integrated emergency information services amongst all of them. Nor can I find anyone in power in government taking that overall view.”

In other words, we’re organized as stovepipes and our solutions emphasize telecom pipes.  We see this every day as we read the discussions on ListServers, watch jurisdictions plan for their future solutions, read RFPs and make purchasing decisions.  Let’s hope that folks like David continue to write and talk about this issue and can further influence this industry for change!

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