In the future, you'll be able to text and send videos to 9-1-1

In the future, you'll be able to text and send videos to 9-1-1

Summary: "It's hard to imagine that airlines can send text messages if your flight is delayed, but you can't send a text message to 9-1-1 in an emergency."

TOPICS: Telcos, Mobility

"One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy..." -- Ernestine

Almost everyone in America knows about, and to some degree, counts on the 9-1-1 emergency service. Whether it's reporting a crime, a fire, or a serious accident or health condition, 9-1-1 is the way to get help, fast.

You may not realize it, but 9-1-1 was an international response to the removal of human operators from telephone calling.

In the early days of telephones, from the early 20th century up to about the mid-1950s, if you wanted to make a call, you'd always have operator assistance. You'd actually talk to a human person, who'd connect you with other human people, and the call would be placed.

This is where the legend of the operator as a gossip came from. The thing was, if you were ill, needed a doctor, had a fire, or any other emergency, you'd just pick up the phone, tell the operator what was wrong, and she (it was almost always a "she" back then) would connect you to the right service. The phone user didn't have to remember a number to dial.

But human operators got expensive as more and more phones were installed. It just wasn't practical to scale the phone system and use operators, and that's why some of the earliest computers were complex telephone switching systems. In fact, some of the earliest shortest-path algorithms were designed for telephone systems.

The problem, then, was that people couldn't easily remember a different number for each emergency service. The U.K., Canada, and the U.S. all realized this was a problem, and all went about finding a solution. Eventually, in the late sixties, the U.S. and Canada settled on 9-1-1 as a quick and easy-to-remember number.

9-1-1 had two important characteristics. It was quick to dial and easy to remember, and it transmitted your location to the emergency provider. It's this location awareness that has been causing problems for 9-1-1 since landlines went the way of the buffalo and we all started relying on IP telephony and the cellular network.

And that's why, today, although you can send a text message to your electrician, a picture of an item in a store to your husband, or a video of the puppy falling asleep to YouTube, you can't send any of this rich media information to an emergency responder.

That, hopefully, is about to change.

In a speech before the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials in Philadelphia yesterday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced plans to radically expand 9-1-1 coverage.

In his speech, Chairman G stated:

It's hard to imagine that airlines can send text messages if your flight is delayed, but you can't send a text message to 9-1-1 in an emergency. The unfortunate truth is that the capability of our emergency response communications has not kept pace with commercial innovation has not kept pace with what ordinary people now do every day with communications devices.

It is hard to imagine. It's weird, also, to think that just because you're using something like Google Voice, you can't call 9-1-1.

Genachowski announced a five-step plan to remake 9-1-1:

  1. develop automatic location accuracy mechanisms for NG-911
  2. facilitate the completion and implementation of NG911 technical standards for the hardware and software that carriers and public safety answering points (PSAPs) use to communicate NG911 information
  3. work with state 911 authorities, other Federal agencies, and other governing entities to provide technical expertise and develop a coordinated approach to NG911 governance
  4. develop an NG911 Funding Model focused on the cost-effectiveness of the NG911 network infrastructure linking PSAPs and carriers, and
  5. enable consumers to send text, photos, and videos to PSAPs

The only gotcha? There's no timeline. It's a good idea, it's long overdue, but without a solid timeline and an actually funding commitment, the chairman's plan is only just so much talk.

We'll believe it when we see it.

As Ernestine might say, "Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?"

The image used at the beginning of this article was from the Lily Tomlin album "This Is A Recording" (Polydor, 1971)

Topics: Telcos, Mobility


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: In the future, you'll be able to text and send videos to 9-1-1

    Robert Hahn
  • RE: In the future, you'll be able to text and send videos to 9-1-1

    OK, so the 911 operator gets your video. How does it get out to the first responders? And as the ambulance is speeding down the street do they have time to watch an unedited video?
    • RE: In the future, you'll be able to text and send videos to 9-1-1

      @jtdavies - By the time this is fully implemented most law enforcement and first responders will have some kind of computer in their vehicles. In the case of ambulances and the like there should be more that one person in the vehicle and the driver wouldn't be the one viewing that information.
    • RE: In the future, you'll be able to text and send videos to 9-1-1

      @jtdavies ... Personally can't see video being much of a use to a crash/accident victm. Video is slow with high data content. Pic per Sec might work though, but then you have to locate the camera ... where? to be useful. There needs to always be a real time audio channel opened whenever the device is triggered, and a GPS system to send its location unless t only works at home on a land line. No?
  • Some have this now.

    There are a number of agencies that are already equipped to deal with text messages. (Video no so much.) The office I work at is. We don't get a large number of texts as the service is relatively new. I can see it being very useful in loud situations or in place of the TTY/TDD systems.
  • RE: In the future, you'll be able to text and send videos to 9-1-1

    I wonder how I will be able to text emergency services for help when I've wrecked my car on the interstate and lost my phone as it exited the car via the windshield while I was texting my BFF???
    • RE: In the future, you'll be able to text and send videos to 9-1-1

      I think I'd rather stay with On-Star or one of the many other services that detect a wreck, mute the radio and connects you to an emergency center. Even if you can't talk, they have your GPS position in order to send help to your location.
      I don't know that V 911 would ever compete with such a service nor do much but re-invent pieces of the wheels that already exist. On top of that, I don't know how they'd ever get tme to do any real work with all the phoney reports,, spam and other crap they'd receive. In any place but your own home, the locating service couldn't work as it does with say OnStar.
    • RE: In the future, you'll be able to text and send videos to 9-1-1

      Well, first off, you'll have tckets waiting for you when you get back home as texting/driving are illegal. Get a hands-free and mount the phone properly.
  • RE: In the future, you'll be able to text and send videos to 9-1-1

    expover microsoft internet working at sites with the
    - and <a href="" title="sohbet odalari" target="_blank">sohbet odalari</a> - and <a href="" title="Mynet" target="_blank">mynet</a> - <a href="" title="Mynet sohbet" target="_blank">mynet sohbet</a> -
    turkey the microsoft is a good format is also <a href="" title="face" target="_blank">face</a> -
    - <a href="" title="metin2 pvp" target="_blank">metin2 pvp</a> -
    operiation <a href="">facebok</a> - <a href="">twitter</a>
    Behaviour of desdek bigger role in these sites <a href="">sohbet</a> Microsoft A network connection to the game s dada gubve unwanted surprises
    <a href="" title="metin2 pvp serverlar" target="_blank">metin2 pvp serverlar</a> -
    <a href="" title="facesohbet" target="_blank">facesohbet</a> -
    and <a href="" title="yonja" target="_blank">yonja</a> - and <a href="" title="facebok" target="_blank">facebok</a> -<a href="" title="sex sohbet" target="_blank">sex sohbet</a> - <a href="" title="sex hikayeleri" target="_blank">sex hikayeleri</a> - and- and <a href="" title="facebook" target="_blank">facebook</a> - and <a href="" title="fesbuk" target="_blank">fesbuk</a> - and <a href="" title="sohbet" target="_blank">sohbet</a> - and <a href="" title="cet" target="_blank">cet</a> - - and <a href="" title="metin2 indir" target="_blank">metin2 indir</a> - and <a href="" title="metin2 resimleri" target="_blank">metin2 resimleri</a> - and <a href="" title="metin2 kaydol" target="_blank">metin2 kaydol</a> - ang <a href="" title="metin2" target="_blank">metin2</a> -

    <a href="" title="fesbok giris" target="_blank">fesbok giris</a>
    room turkey
    twitter sohbet portallari <a href="" title="netlog" target="_blank">netlog</a> and <a href="" title="twitter turkce" target="_blank">twitter t?rkce</a> and <a href="" title="twitter giris" target="_blank">twitter giris</a> and <a href="" title="twitter kaydol" target="_blank">twitter kaydol</a>
    <a href="" title="fesbuk" target="_blank">fesbuk</a>

    turkiye mt2, metin2 online games serverlar
    and and and <a href="" title="mt2 pvp server" target="_blank">mt2 pvp server</a> and <a href="" title="metin2 pvp server" target="_blank">metin2 pvp server</a> and <a href="" title="metin2" target="_blank">metin2</a> and <a href="" title="pvp server" target="_blank">pvp server</a> and <a href="" title="metin2 pvp serverlar" target="_blank">metin2 pvp serverlar</a> and <a href="" title="metin2 pvp serverler" target="_blank">metin2 pvp serverler</a> and
    <a href="" title="pvp serverler" target="_blank">pvp serverler</a> and <a href="" title="pvp serverlar" target="_blank">pvp serverlar</a>

    <a href="" title="istanbul sohbet" target="_blank">istanbul sohbet</a><a href="" title="istanbul sohbet sitesi" target="_blank">istanbul sohbet sitesi</a><a href="" title="istanbul sohbet odasi" target="_blank">istanbul sohbet odasi</a><a href="" title="istanbul sohbet odalar?" target="_blank">istanbul sohbet odalar?</a>

    <a href="" title="ankara sohbet" target="_blank">ankara sohbet</a><a href="" title="ankara sohbet odalar?" target="_blank">ankara sohbet odalar?</a><a href="" title="ankara sohbet sitesi" target="_blank">ankara sohbet sitesi</a><a href="" title="ankara sohbet odas?" target="_blank">ankara sohbet odas?</a><a href="" title="izmir sohbet" target="_blank">izmir sohbet</a><a href="" title="izmir sohbet odalar?" target="_blank">izmir sohbet odalar?</a><a href="" title="izmir sohbet sitesi" target="_blank">izmir sohbet sitesi</a><a href="" title="izmir sohbet chat" target="_blank">izmir sohbet chat</a><a href="" title="bursa sohbet" target="_blank">bursa sohbet</a><a href="" title="bursa sohbet odalar?" target="_blank">bursa sohbet odalar?</a><a href="" title="bursa sohbet siteleri" target="_blank">bursa sohbet siteleri</a><a href="" title="bursa sohbet odasi" target="_blank">bursa sohbet odasi</a><a href="" title="seviyeli sohbet" target="_blank">seviyeli sohbet</a><a href="" title="seviyeli sohbet odalari" target="_blank">seviyeli sohbet odalar?</a><a href="" title="seviyeli sohbet siteleri" target="_blank">seviyeli sohbet siteleri</a><a href="" title="seviyeli sohbet kanallar?" target="_blank">seviyeli sohbet kanalalr?</a><a href="" title="yonja" target="_blank">yonja</a><a href="" title="netlog" target="_blank">netlog</a><a href="" title="twitter" target="_blank">twitter</a><a href="" title="face" target="_blank">face</a><a href="" title="facebook" target="_blank">facebook</a><a href="" title="metin2 pvp, metin2 pvp server, mt2 server," target="_blank">pvp</a>

    Bunu mu demek istediniz? Cok guzel bir oyun be?eni ile oynuyorum ama bunun metin2
    Metin veya web sitesi adresi yaz?n ya da bir dok?man? ?evirin.
    Fonetik olarak okuyun
    T?rk?e dilinden ?ngilizce diline ?eviri
    I play a game with very nice, but it <a href="" title="metin2" target="_blank">metin2</a>
    <a href="" title="metin2 pvp" target="_blank">metin2 pvp</a>
    <a href="" title="metin2 pvp serverler" target="_blank">metin2 pvp serverler</a>

    and install servers by lara s depending on the tour game bilrisiniz

    <a href="" title="tuztanem" target="_blank">tuztanem</a>
    <a href="" title="manolyam" target="_blank">manolyam</a>
  • RE: In the future, you'll be able to text and send videos to 9-1-1

    Unless they can somehow tie into the services of an already existing service they'll have a huge wheel to re-invent iin order to get just a fraction of the services offered by those that alreadyy exist. The only thiing cars would be missing to make such things easily workable would be a GPS indcator for location anyhere.