At the EU Emergency Services Workshop 2013 a regulatory issues panel moderated by Tony O’Brien (Deputy Executive Director, EENA). The panel discussed a couple of topics, including the need for standards, performance indicators, and location. The location slot lead to a heated discussion with the following persons on the panel: Raed Arafat (Secretary of State for Health, Romania), Laszlo Toth (Policy Director, GSMA Europe), John Medland (999/112 Policy Manager, BT), Paulo Pereira (ANACOM, Portal), Florin Dragomir (National Authority for Management and Regulation, Romania), and Gyula Bara (European Commission).
Here is a little bit of background: Emergency calls require location information for three reasons: (1) location is necessary to route the emergency call, (2) to dispatch first responders the location of the person seeking help is needed, and (3) emergency numbers are often interpreted in context of location since different numbers are used in different countries. In the context of this panel discussion the focus is on location for dispatch.
In general, more accurate location is better for emergency services organizations since it allows to dispatch first responders faster, particularly with incidents in rural areas where search can take a longer time and tends to be more costly.
With regard to location accuracy in Europe emergency services authorities receive cell-id location. Cell-id location is rather coarse grained. Better location determination mechanisms are available to-do that offer much better accuracy and those have been deployed in the US for some time already.
The discussion that surfaced again in Europe was whether requirements for better location accuracy should be introduced because industry (mostly telecommunication operators) does not deploy them by themselves. For some reason mobile phone operators have not been able to develop a business model for location-based services that would justify the investments into their networks. Consequently, the technology is not deployed in mobile networks today in Europe. Should the European Commission and national regulators therefore demand the deployment of this location technology? Should other approaches (such as utilizing location available at smart phones) be re-used?
Here is a recording of the discussion and make your own judgement.