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Motorola Solutions Debuts Tech to Avoid Misrouted 911 Calls

According to one estimate, thousands of lives are lost each year due to misrouted 911 calls. Now a large dispatch technology provider has introduced new capabilities to avoid those errors using device GPS.

An ambulance on a city street at night.
In a sign of things to come, Motorola Solutions has introduced new capabilities to its 911 dispatch technology to help avoid some of the millions of misroutings of emergency calls that happen every year.

After a year trying out the technology with customers, Motorola is more openly promoting the capabilities of its Next-Generation Core Services to route 911 calls to dispatchers based on the location of the caller — as opposed to the location of the nearest cellphone tower to the caller.

Routing based on the tower often results in the call going to a dispatch center that isn’t the closest to the caller, meaning the call must be transferred, which wastes valuable time during an emergency. It’s an issue that affects about 12 percent of the 911 calls coming from cellphones each year, according to the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, which might mean as many as 16,000 lost lives per year.

Motorola’s NGCS has the ability to route the call based on the GPS coordinates of the mobile device instead, based on the National Emergency Number Association’s i3 standard. Though the market is working toward location-based routing, today most calls are routed the old way.

“We’re one of the first in the market to be able to do this. We’ve been running for about a year now with several of our deployments across the U.S.,” said Dan Twohig, Motorola Solutions’ VP of NGCS.

The technology relies on the wireless carrier making it possible for Motorola to query the GPS, which means it’s not always available. In that case, the router works based on the cell tower.

AT&T, one of the largest telecommunications firms in the country, recently announced a similar move to route calls based on device location.

Motorola’s new capabilities will be automatically available to any jurisdiction using its NGCS, which includes areas in the U.S. and Canada where more than 25 million people live, according to a press release.

“Seconds save lives, right? So the ability to ensure that the accuracy of the routing is as best as it can be is super important to deliver,” Twohig said.
Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.