John Oliver Questions Outdated 911 Call Centers Bluetooth Is The Answer

Posted on June 14, 2016 by Emmanuel Azih

One of the most exciting parts of working with the Bluetooth SIG is seeing our member companies use Bluetooth technology to create innovative solutions that address real-world issues. It’s even more exciting when these topics come up on amazing shows like Last Week Tonight, with John Oliver. Recently, the long-form comegy news show tackled the need for improved technology to aid first responders and we shouted at the TV, “Bluetooth does that!”

More specifically, BeaconOutlets (formerly called SmarterSockets) does that. Emmanuel Azih, founder and CEO of BeaconOutlets, shares with us how outdated emergency response technology can be transformed to save more lives:

At the crux of the issue is 9-1-1’s inability to accurately locate a caller because of the growing number of households that rely solely on wireless communication. Unlike landlines, which are associated with specific physical addresses, mobile phones have no association to a physical address; they’re mobile. For this reason, it’s often very difficult for first responders to determine the precise location of a wireless 9-1-1 caller. As Oliver points out, even when 9-1-1 has the right physical address, they do not have the technology to accurately locate which floor or room a person is calling from. What Oliver did not mention, however, is that while 9-1-1 does not have the technology, the technology does in fact exist.

The Federal Communications Commission estimates that improved indoor localization technology could save 10,000 lives per year.  In the same report that called for telecom carriers to improve indoor localization of wireless callers over the next three to five years, the FCC pointed out that BeaconOutlets is among the technologies already on the market that could be used to enhance localization infrastructure, enabling first responders to react even more quickly and to save more lives.

BeaconOutlet provides first responders with accurate location informationBeaconOutlets look like traditional electrical wall outlets, but embedded within them is Bluetooth enabled localization technology that mobile phones can “see.” Each outlet uses the Bluetooth signal to create a small invisible boundary around itself.  As mobile phones see and move across each outlet boundary, they become aware of their proximity to each and thus their location: address, floor-level, or even room number. This works across iPhones and Android mobile devices.

This means that your phone can use signals from BeaconOulet to pinpoint your indoor location without relying on GPS or even Wi-Fi. This makes it a crucial tool in emergency situations where first responders need faster and more accurate location information than GPS or Wi-Fi can provide. It’s also amazing to realize that, given the electrical outlet infrastructure that exists in virtually every building, BeaconOutlet technology is exceptionally easy to implement and use.How the BeaconOutlet Uses Bluetooth Technology

Imagine working late on the 12th floor of your office building and all of a sudden you find yourself in need of immediate medical assistance. You, of course, dial 9-1-1, your phone automatically turns on its location capabilities, pings the Bluetooth beacon signals around you, determines your location down to the room number, floor number, and physical address, and automatically sends that information to first responders.

Emmanuel’s description is not as far-fetched or far away as some may think. This is all possible now with BeaconOutlets, and it could mean the difference between life and death. 

As Oliver points out, this is a real issue and it’s in our best interest to solve this problem in a way that actually scales. While the Last Week segment details all of the policy, budgeting, and logistical issues crippling 9-1-1 call centers, there is at least some good news, the technology exists: beacon technology with Bluetooth.

emmaunuel azih

Emmanuel Azih

Emmanuel earned an electrical engineering degree from Georgia Tech and holds several patents related to beacon technology. He has extensive knowledge of the beacon industry and has published several comments on indoor localization, including a recent invitation from the FCC to contribute to the official record regarding use of beacon technology for enhanced 911 responses.

View all posts by Emmanuel Azih