The Internet of Things for the 911 of Things

Supplemental data from many IoT providers can be transmitted to public safety with 911 calls to create greater situational awareness and actionable intelligence for first responders.

Alex Hamlin

February 18, 2021

Supplemental data from many IoT providers can be transmitted to public safety with 911 calls to create greater situational awareness and actionable intelligence for first responders.

The internet withOUT things took shape in the 1960’s. Although the internet itself was not broadly and publicly available until 1991, there was an effort even then to connect THINGS to the internet. Surprisingly, the very first internet-connected device was a Coca-Cola machine, developed by a group of students at Carnegie-Mellon University. A governmental system of communications was in place by 1983, and in 1990, the very first publicly recognized connected device was introduced at an interoperability conference. The device? A toaster!

The “Internet of Things” or “IoT” is a term that describes a network of devices or “things” designed to connect to and exchange data with other devices or “things”. What does this mean for Public Safety? Connected devices or sensors that have the capability to transmit lifesaving information beyond a simple voice call to 911 can reduce response times and provide for a more accurate response, ultimately resulting in better outcomes for those in an emergency situation. We call it the “911 of Things™”.

Various data types from different IoT companies can be transmitted to public safety when emergency Requests for Assistance (RFA) are initiated. Inputs may include detailed crash information from Telematics Service Providers, gunshot sensor information from connected building providers, medical data from healthcare providers, information from personal safety applications and devices, data from alarm companies into public safety, and so much more.

Intrado 911 of Things


Does Public Safety Want This Additional Data?

YES! Public safety answering points (PSAP) most certainly want additional data relevant to an emergency response. How they want to receive this lifesaving data isn’t always the same way they’re capable of receiving it. Public safety hardware and software solutions vary by country, state, region, county, city, and even sometimes by response jurisdictions within a city. To make matters more confusing, often there is overlap in jurisdictions! This means that every 911 Center for the most part (over 6,000 across North America) may have different hardware and software combinations, and even different versions based on that agency’s protocols, policies, and procedures.

Network security and internet access varies greatly from one 911 Center to the next. It’s for this reason that 911 Centers want to receive additional information about an emergency call via their existing systems within existing workflows and call queues without the need for an Over-The-Top (OTT) application. There is also a quickly growing trend to receive fewer voice calls and more requests for assistance via other means such as data messages to 911, text messages to 911, or direct integration into a CAD (Computer-Aided Dispatch) system. Diving deeper, consider a few specific IoT data uses that can help when a 911 call or request for assistance has been placed:

Crash Notification & Data, and Stolen Vehicle Information from Telematics Service Providers (TSPs)

Sensors in the vehicles of Today are equipped with sensors capable of telling you where a vehicle is located, whether or not the vehicle is overturned or on fire, how many occupants are in the vehicle, and even, during a crash, what the speed upon impact was, how many airbags were deployed and which ones. Delivering this information to public safety can make the difference in the type and number of responders that are dispatched for an incident. Would that be one ambulance or three? Are four police cars, three first trucks and three ambulances needed or would one police car for a minor fender bender be more appropriate?

Imagine there’s been an accident in that the vehicle has rolled over, caught fire, and doors won’t open. The Jaws of Life are needed immediately! Several valuable minutes may be lost while waiting for on-scene decision-making as the arrives, assesses the situation and calls for a piece of equipment that could have been dispatched earlier. The reality is, with more information that can be delivered to 911, dispatchers and first responders could know immediately when an occupant is entrapped or the severity of the accident so they automatically send equipment like the jaws of life. Imagine how that can change an emergency situation!

Connected Building Technologies

Cameras, sensors, access control, alarms, strobes, floor plans, and other inputs from a smart building can be the difference of life or death during an emergency. One example is a connected building that has deployed Artificial Intelligence (AI) that runs over-the-top of an IP Camera system on a campus. This AI is specifically trained to detect unholstered firearms and long guns. This technology can be integrated into the other IoT devices within the building. Imagine that a gunman takes a firearm out of their vehicle in a school parking lot and begins walking toward the building in view of cameras. The AI immediately detects the firearm and the detection is quickly verified by a human. Immediately a data message to 911 within the existing workflow initiates an emergency response by police. Simultaneously, because a gun was detected, the access control system locks all of the exterior building doors and the emergency notification system broadcasts a shelter-in-place notification to the occupants of the school. Now, the would-be shooter is unable to make entry into the school--or is at least slowed down--until first responders—law enforcement, fire protection or emergency medical services (EMS)-- arrives on scene.

Personal Safety Apps & Devices

Wearable jewelry items such as watches or pendants are now available allowing users to press a button that sends a notification to emergency contacts when they are in danger. The emergency contact may then request help on the user’s behalf during an emergency. The system identifies the victim’s location and 911 center, rather than based on the emergency contact’s information. Because the victim’s location and nearest 911 center have been correctly identified, the PSAP or ECC have a profile on both WHO they are looking for and WHERE as they dispatch the incident.

Integrating the IoT into the 911 workflow is a beneficial reality for public safety, connecting the dots between citizens and sources of safety through 911 data messaging. Click here to learn more about 911 Data Messaging. To read a full press release on the Intrado Emergency Data Broker, click here.

Author Name
Alex Hamlin