911 location-accuracy program set for third stage; Z-axis testing expected to begin later this year

Device-based hybrid solutions that utilize Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals appear to be the most promising to help locate people using a cell phone to call 911 from inside buildings within dense urban environments, according to initial results from the 911 Location Technologies Test Bed.

Device-based hybrid solutions that utilize Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals appear to be the most promising to help locate people using a cell phone to call 911 from inside buildings within dense urban environments, according to initial results from the 911 Location Technologies Test Bed.

Matthew Gerst, CTIA’s assistant vice president of regulatory affairs, said the first two stages of testing have been completed at independent test beds in Atlanta and San Francisco. The test-bed program was established after the FCC approved rules in 2015 that created benchmarks for locating 911 callers using wireless devices indoors, as well as outdoors.

“Existing technologies that we’re using today—like GPS and other network-based technologies—performed well indoors in urban, surburban and rural areas,” Gerst said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “But they’re challenged indoors in dense urban areas, and that’s where we saw this device-based hybrid solution hold the most promise for improving indoor location accuracy.”

Stage 1 of the test-bed program examined the performance of carriers’ existing location technologies, Gerst said.

“One of the things that the carriers tested in Stage 1 was the idea of a device-based hybrid solution,” he said. “If the handset has its own location-information capabilities—scanning for Wi-Fi access points, for example—the carriers want to utilize that information for 911. They’re already starting to begin to use that in their networks.

Stage 2 of the program included testing of location technologies that exist today outside of carrier networks, such as dedicated 911 solutions, Gerst said.

Stage 3 is “more about looking at these smaller-scale, localized deployment solutions to make sure that we’re not leaving any stone unturned as we look for location technologies that could be used for 911,” Gerst said, noting that the goal is “to see if they can be scaled up to be used for 911 nationally.”

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