Consortium Demos Its Solution For 911 VoIP Failures

A consortium of universities, governments and companies has banded together to develop a prototype of an emergency 911 system that could solve the problem of locating distressed persons calling from

May 27, 2005

2 Min Read
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A consortium of universities, governments and companies has banded together to develop a prototype of an emergency 911 system that could solve the nagging problem of locating distressed persons calling from VoIP phones. Called the NG911 Project, the system was demonstrated in Washington D.C. Thursday.

The drive to provide better 911 service across-the-board and particularly for VoIP has intensified in recent weeks with new reports of breakdowns in existing emergency calling systems.

Spearheaded by Columbia University and Texas A & M, the NG911 Project entails using telephones modified at Columbia to connect to an emergency communications center (ECC) location server via a custom "SOS" user resource identifier (URI). NG911 officials have noted that Columbia has begun work on Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) measures involving the automatic assigning of IP addresses.

The approach utilizes several unique features that generally set it apart from existing 911 services. First, NG911 is not proprietary, but open and would be publicly available on a wide basis. Second, it would utilize large databases extensively. Finally, there would be use of video as the project goes forward.

"Internet phone customers are expected to top 25 million in the next several years," Henning Schulzrinne, computer science chair at Columbia's Fu Foundation, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said in a statement. "It is critically important that there be a technically sound and scalable 911 solution in place."While much of the original work on NG911 has been carried out at Columbia, major development work is underway also at and near Texas A & M. Next phases of the project, according to material on the project's Web site would involve establishing an IP-based 911 workstation in Brazos County, Texas, as well as in the city of College Station, Texas. The demonstration project there would utilize public safety answering points (PSAPs) connected at the Texas university. One PSAP has a 155 million bits per second capacity, the other 10 million Mbps. Another test prototype is planned to get underway in the State of Virginia under the auspices of the University of Virginia.

Companies participating in NG911 include Cisco Systems and Nortel Networks. In addition to providing Cisco software and hardware to the project, Cisco will provide access to an emergency 911 gateway solution as well as giving source code to help Columbia researchers add location information to a DHCP server. Nortel will provide a SIP switching platform. Internet2, which provides networking expertise to many universities, is also involved in the project.

Also playing a key role in the NG911 Project is the National Emergency Numbering Association (NENA), which coordinates emergency communications on a national level.

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