Over the past decades, our world has seen an astonishing technological transformation.
This revolution has changed our lives and allowed us to have more tools and resources, making it easier to access and exchange information with just one click.
If it was easy for us to adapt to modern technology, making it almost impossible to live without it, for emergency services, there is still a way to go.
Currently in Europe, access to most emergency services is possible only by voice telephone calls.
In the ever-evolving and hyperconnected world in which we live, where every day we use new technologies such as video calls and VoIP, home speakers, 5G devices, etc., how can emergency response systems be upgraded so they can keep up with this disruptive technology?
Next Generation 112 (NG112) is the answer. The pan-European technical architecture gives emergency services the possibility to exploit the benefits of these new technologies and integrate them into emergency response, which is not possible on the existing phone-based system.
It is time for emergency services in Europe to embrace the future because it is the only way to ensure reliable communications and to avoid technology segregation.
So, what is Next Generation 112 (NG112)?
NG112 is all about making use of Internet Protocol (IP) communications. The NG112 architecture enables the modernization of emergency communications, allowing for more data (text, video, location, or additional data) than traditional calls, which can result in a more efficient response.
NG112 would also mean that emergency services call centres (Public Safety Answering Points) can be interconnected. With this feature, overwhelmed centres can transfer calls and data to another centre during a big disaster, a cyberattack, or even an outage. Although it would be lifesaving, surprisingly in most countries this is not currently possible.
NG112 allows for other benefits like helping to ensure equal access for all citizens, optimizing the distribution of emergency calls among several emergency call centres and hence reducing response times. In an era where cybersecurity is key, moving on to dedicated networks for public-safety organizations would also make them less exposed to cyberattacks.
Due to all these benefits that allow citizens to contact emergency services organizations with 21st century technology, EENA created a pilot project on NG112. Our initiative is to some extent based on NG911 in the US, which already allows us to see some positive outcomes.
EENA’s NG112 project
In April 2019, EENA launched its NG112 project, which ended in June 2020. The project aimed to test and deploy the NG112 architecture in different countries, focusing on demonstrating its use in real-life environments.
Three consortia were selected, covering five different countries: Austria, Italy, Denmark, Turkey and Croatia. The use cases included voice and video Internet Protocol (IP) calls, real-time text, cross-border emergency communications and initiating emergency communications from a home speaker. The consortium successfully demonstrated the value of the NG112 architecture, particularly in terms of accurate, policy-based cross-border routing capabilities, accessibility, decision-making and resource allocation.
The NEXES project (NEXt generation Emergency Services) was a Horizon 2020 (H2020) project from ten European countries. The aim was to research, test and validate the integration of IP-based communication technology and interoperability into the Next Generation services.
Promoting and establishing good practices between different national and European services would enable more comprehensive emergency response.
The NEXES system, apps and its operational benefits are demonstrated in three realistic pilots to end users and stakeholders.
The future is just around the corner
With each new technology there are new upgrades. Emergency services need to ensure that their systems keep up with the speed of the 21st century.
NG112 architecture is a standardized reality today.1 With this in place solutions can be interoperable and ensure maximum effectiveness. Now it’s up to public safety organizations to make it happen.
We cannot deny that the road is a steep learning curve, but it is time to change. It is time for emergency services to embrace internet-based communications and say goodbye to outdated technology. This will not only benefit emergency responders but also network providers and, above all, citizens in need.
For more information, go to www.eena.org/our-work/eena-special-focus/next-generation-112/ or contact Marta Azevedo Silva, Communications & Press Officer at the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), at [email protected]
1. Claire Boyer (2020-01-20) ‘ETSI issues two major standards for emergency calls: Next Generation 112 and Advanced Mobile Location’, European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) https://bit.ly/3kCMwZs (Retrieved 2020-08-12)