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May 18, 2015

Text-to-911 Movement in the United States Powered by TeleCommunication Systems

By now, most everyone's familiar with some point in a movie where someone tries with a clear desperation to call 911, but tries with equal desperation to not be overheard doing so. It's times like those, and plenty of others, where the ability to send a text to 911 would be prized. But 911 hasn't had the capability to receive text messages in a lot of places—until recent days when efforts from TeleCommunication Systems (TCS) helped drive the development of such systems.

TCS' efforts have recently brought some spectacular results to the table, as the company announced that over 500 public safety answering points (PSAPs) now boast TCS material therein, with 33 states having production service with the company. That makes TCS the current leader in text-to-911 service, according to reports, thanks in large part to its focus on interoperability with legacy systems. That development helps ensure that TCS' material works with whatever system is currently in place, a development that makes installation easier and less expensive, and thus more attractive to 911 operators.

TCS has been reportedly offering up wireless enhanced 911 (E911) solutions since 1998, and has been bringing out such services as NG911 and E112. The company has advanced sufficiently to the point that it accounts for nearly half of all wireless E911 calls that take place in the United States. It's even been working on E911 systems for femtocells, and given that femtocells are a rapidly-rising part of the mobile infrastructure, opens up some distinct possibilities for E911 access. While a lack of defined standards has reportedly kept E911 for femtocells from reaching its fullest potential, TCS continues development regardless, taking advantage of the current scene as-is to provide service.

With nearly 90 percent of all wireless subscribers in the United Sates able to send SMS messages to any PSAP that can receive such systems, it thus becomes particularly important to put such tools into the PSAPs in question. But many states already have at least one TCS deployment of text-to-911 in production, ranging from Alabama and California to Kentucky and Virginia. TCS, at last report, is also working with over 300 additional PSAPs to bring in the text-to-911 service.

Text-to-911 isn't just a tool that would come in handy in suspense-thriller movies, either; it's particularly helpful in situations where the wireless signal isn't sufficiently strong to support a phone call, but is enough to get out one short message. That's particularly useful for those times when, say, a driver hits a deer while driving through back-country roads. There's currently a petition found at change.org, started earlier this month, that details how only five percent of the emergency dispatch centers in the United States can even receive and send text messaging, and the petition in question wants that changed. So far, the petition has garnered 46,472 supporters as of this writing, showing clear support for such systems.

Text-to-911 is a desirable service that has several useful attributes connected to it, so it's not particularly surprising to see people interested in getting hands on it. Companies like TCS will likely continue to lead the charge in the field for some time to come, and one day, 911 everywhere will be as easy to reach as anyone else is by text message.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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