‘911’ Location Accuracy: Getting to Dispatchable Addresses

Posted by: Joan Marsh on June 27, 2014 at 11:39 am

TruePosition recently commissioned and produced a test report purporting to show that its proprietary technology can meet the FCC’s proposed benchmarks for locating wireless 911 callers horizontally and vertically indoors.  The tests were run on a test bed in Wilmington, Delaware outside the context of the established CSRIC process specifically designed to assess new “911” location technologies.  And although TruePosition claims the test relied on commercial off-the-shelf technologies, it did not and the technologies used by TruePosition are not fully supported in any wireless network today.  Moreover, the technology used would not provide complete location information in that it does not have the capability to provide a vertical estimate of location.  Indeed, TruePosition simply ignored that component of the FCC’s proposed rules as someone else’s problem to fix, while enthusiastically encouraging the FCC to adopt unachievable regulations for carriers to meet.

Beyond these significant limitations, the testing highlights even bigger concerns.  The fact is that the approach proposed by TruePosition is, at the core, antithetical to the design of modern 3G and 4G networks.  TruePosition’s proposed solution depends on hardware installed at each base station seeing the handsets being served by other base stations. Modern wireless networks are designed to minimize the number of base stations interacting with a handset to prevent interference. TruePosition simply ignores this design feature by proposing a solution, yet undefined in industry standards bodies, that would require wireless carriers to essentially “power up” a handset during a “911” call.  They also ignore the potential for the untenable interference that such an approach would likely create.

The point is that delivering the type of indoor location accuracy that first responders want and deserve is a highly complex problem that deserves careful thought and a robust, deployable solution.  TruePosition’s proposal falls far short.  To serve the public best, the wireless industry should be focused on a path to delivering specific and unique dispatchable civic addresses.  TruePosition’s proposed approach just doesn’t get us there.  Instead of chasing ill-considered and half-baked approaches proposed by a single technology provider, all stakeholders would be better served by working together to chart the path toward delivery of a solution that will fully address public safety’s needs – one built on broad-based commercial technologies that provide a specific dispatchable address.