Emergency notification services count on knowing where the call is coming from. IP of course being the immature technique puts that requirement on its ear. So how do we balance this world?
Doug Mohoney at FierceTelecom reported this incredible (too strange to be true) story about abuse of public safety resources.
Called 'swatting' the game is really costly and quite a dangerous prank. These really stupid people get their jollies sending 911 emergency crews which can include SWAT teams, canine units and helicopters of metropolitan police forces, to unsuspecting innocent homes anticipating hostage situations, murder scenes or worse and then laughing all about the waste of public safety time and expenses, not to mention the horror of the innocents who are handcuffed and arrested.
They use an IP network to spoof telephone numbers and then make outrageous claims on the 911 operator. A software upgrade of the PSAP infrastructure would segment out IP calls from PSTN calls so a nasty crank caller in NY can't initiate a 911 call dispatched in Seattle WA.
Although tough to track, there are criminals still being charged and convicted costing them five years in jail.
The first report of Brockmann & Company, First Communications was on public safety and business users' recommendations. In the research, it became clear that mobile is the most powerful emergency communications service. It is also the default communications service.
When the office PBX is rebooted, what to enterprise sales people do?
They use their mobile phones and do business even though they have a pretty good excuse why they can't.
As I read through the data to be used in an upcoming report, the low importance of SMS in business struck me as a surprising result, particularly in terms of emergency notification needs. Companies like MIR3 and Skinkers depend on SMS technology as an integral component of their notification service.
I remembered reading the FCC's report on Hurricane Katrina and feeling empathy for the suffering of the thousands of citizens who'd lost electrical power and their connectedness to other human beings within the horror of a hurricane-force wind and tumult. Yet the wireless towers and wireless networks survived and continued operating.
One proposal in the Katrina hearings was to allow public safety officials to deliver emergency notifications - evacuate, stay in your homes, turn TV to channel XYZ for more information - as an SMS to all the mobile phones in a given physical territory. To do this may require some software upgrades in the wireless operator networks, but can certainly be done.
In fact, a mobile phone-based emergency broadcast system is a simpler and more direct method for reaching citizens at risk from a metropolitan disaster than the TV or radio network. In fact, in a simple poll in my living room while we watched a DVD, all four of us in the room (3 of my teen/college-aged kids) had our mobile phones, but none of us were watching local TV. In fact, I avoid local TV choosing to watch satellite channels and DVDs.
Sadly, it's a story of one mistake, one death and one great technology. James Kim, a C|Net editor, with a car abandoned on a road in a remote Oregon forest, left his wife and two daughters on Saturday to seek for help, which he never found. That was the mistake - never leave the car.
The wife and children were found in the car on Monday afternoon, his body was found on Wednesday after Thanksgiving 2006. Aparently, the cellular phone provided a trajectory for the rescuers to find the car and the family. It appears that the family cell phone was in range of the tower long enough to register that the Kims had a text message waiting.
The wireless engineers of the operator were able to detect the call detail record and used that to focus the search effort, which led to the rescue. Here's the C|net story.