Race to pinpoint VoIP callers in emergencies

Phone companies are developing a system to allow 999 operators to pinpoint the location of VoIP callers, amid concerns that the increasing use of VoIP could mean police, paramedics and fire crews are unable to attend emergencies promptly.emergencies

By Chris Williams for The Register.

It is hoped that the technology could be in place in some ISPs next year, according to the chairman of the industry group leading the work.

The vast majority of calls to 999 are currently made via traditional landlines and mobile phones. BT has seen a tenfold increase in the volume of VoIP calls to its emergency contact centres in the last 18 months, however.

The ability to locate emergency calls is vital as callers may be under duress, too ill to speak or may simply not know where they are. While traditional landlines can be found by what amounts to a reverse directory lookup, using the line identity number and mobile phone coordinates approximated by triangulation, solving VoIP location is a more complex problem.

Typically, VoIP users are allocated a number by their provider and are able to log in and make calls on any broadband connection. They could be at several sites in one day. That means a solution would require cooperation between VoIP providers and ISPs.

The group tasked with developing the system has been working under the auspices of the NICC – a UK network industry interoperabilty body – for about three years and is chaired by John Medland, BT’s policy manager for 999 services. He said: “It has been difficult. We’ve tried to share as much with the industry as possible to get cooperation.” Original article

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