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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 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."

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