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Carbyne-Cisco Partnership Means IoT Data for 911 Dispatch

Cisco’s platform makes its first foray into 911 response through a partnership with Carbyne, allowing call centers to collect data from both 911 callers and government-owned Internet of Things devices.

The potential of IoT devices to improve emergency response has inspired another partnership. This week it’s Cisco, the IT and networking giant, aligning its unified call manager with Carbyne’s call-handling platform, allowing emergency call centers to collect data from both 911 callers and nearby government-owned IoT devices.

A news release said Carbyne’s platform will be integrated into Cisco Kinetic for Cities, an IoT data platform that shares data across community infrastructure, smart city solutions, applications and connected devices. Carbyne will also be the only 911 solution in the Cisco Marketplace, with others for international emergency numbers, social worker safety and private safety. Carbyne will be available as both a full cloud-based call-handling ecosystem, or a next-generation 911 rich-data plugin for legacy systems, neither of which will require customers to replace existing technology.

Carbyne President of North American Operations Paul Tatro said the company collects five categories of information when a 911 call goes through its platform: device location, video livestreamed from the smartphone to the call center, text messages in a two-way chat window, any data from a user’s phone if they have the Carbyne app and ESInet, and any information that comes over a data link, which Carbyne opens in case the caller’s voice link drops out. Tatro said these pieces of information — combined with what’s available through nearby Cisco-connected road cameras, roadside sensors, smart streetlamps, smart parking meters or other devices — can give first responders an unrivaled amount of detail about an emergency in progress.

“It’s the first time ever that Cisco has allowed their unified call-taking manager to be in the 911 call chain. This was something we worked very hard to convince them … they needed to do to bring that benefit to the 911 call centers, but also to work in conjunction with our vision for how the future of 911 call-taking will work,” he said. “We’ve taken our next-generation 911 call-taking capabilities and integrated it with sensor data with smart cities, if that’s available, and … the net result of that is the most advanced call-taking solution available to the public safety market ever.”

Tatro said the flip side of this integration is that Carbyne can also analyze data that’s being collected by Cisco IoT devices — for example, that cars are frequently skidding past a road sensor — and alert 911 automatically, without any person making a phone call, if there appears to be a worthy problem.

He estimated that 99 percent of 911 calls today are initiated by a human being, but 10 years from now he expects that number to drop “pretty dramatically,” at which point many calls will be prompted by smart cars, telematics or other smart city devices.

Sending data from IoT devices to emergency responders is nothing new: Noonlight collects information from a 911 caller’s IoT devices and puts it in a free dashboard for responders, and RapidSOS has a platform that automatically transmits data to emergency responders from devices such as smart watches, vehicles, phones and smoke- or air-sensing hardware.

However, Tatro pointed out differentiators: RapidSOS won’t stream video for longer than 15 minutes; Carbyne puts the data and call-taking in the same interface, rather than having several screens and widgets that are difficult to monitor all at once; and while competitors often use cloud-hosted applications, Carbyne’s is cloud-native.  

“Things like artificial intelligence, machine learning, variable bitrates, the latest protocols, all that stuff is where we started from, and everybody else is scrambling to figure out how to retrofit that into what they already have,” he said. “I think we’ll win that race.”

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.