FCC to help first responders pinpoint 911 callers in multistory buildings

In a moment of distress, a person making a 911 call can’t always communicate clearly, if at all, making it all the more difficult for first responders to get to the scene quickly.

While wireless carriers can at the current time provide an approximate ground location regarding the whereabouts of a 911 caller — vital if the caller is unable to provide it themselves — a new proposal announced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requests that carriers provide an accurate vertical location so a caller can be quickly located inside a multi-story building. The location data should be accurate to within just three meters of the handset used to make the emergency call, the FCC said.

The proposal is part of the FCC’s ongoing effort to improve its Enhanced 911 location accuracy rules, which require carriers to automatically transmit information on the location of an emergency caller to 911 call centers.

According to a news release, the rules require carriers to meet “an increasingly stringent series of location accuracy benchmarks in accordance with a timetable, including provision of the caller’s ‘dispatchable location’ (such as the street address and apartment number) or vertical location.” With the cooperation of carriers, the system could launch on a phased-in basis starting in April 2021.

The FCC said the plan had been in the pipeline for a while, but it had decided to hold off on a decision until it received additional testing data, which has now occurred.

Commenting on the proposal to get carriers to provide the so-called “z-axis” location data, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a video statement said that in most cases, the “three-meter standard is precise enough to identify the floor level of an indoor, 911 caller. Knowing better where a caller is in a big building can improve the emergency response time and ultimately save lives.”

Matthew Gerst, vice president of regulatory affairs at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), which represents the U.S. communications industry, said that carriers have already made “significant progress enhancing 911 location accuracy capabilities,” adding, “We are encouraged by the FCC’s efforts to provide certainty around expectations and requirements to deliver vertical location information, such as z-axis.”

With cell phones now accounting for around 70 percent of 911 calls, it makes perfect sense to utilize the technology to help first responders in their work. Other efforts include a text-to-911 service that’s been available for several years, while Google has been steadily rolling out Emergency Location Services for Android devices. Apple included technology with similar functionality in its iOS 12 update for the iPhone in 2018.

Emerging Tech

New gunfire-detection system alerts police of shooters in seconds, not minutes

The Safe Zone Gunfire Detector is a fast gunfire-detection system that could help avert potential tragedies in public places like schools, malls, or anywhere a mass shooting might occur.
Cars

Keep your driving record squeaky clean with these top-flight radar detectors

Nobody likes getting a speeding ticket, but these gadgets can help. Check out our picks for the best radar detectors on the market, from the likes of Valentine One, Escort, and Beltronics.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 update gives manual control of Bright Night mode

Samsung 2019 flagship smartphone lineup is here, and there aren't just two phones as usual — there are four. There's the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, as well as a new entry called the S10e, as well as the Galaxy S10 5G.
Photography

Panasonic Lumix S1R vs. Nikon Z 7: When megapixels matter, which do you choose?

The 47-megapixels Lumix S1R and 46-megapixel Nikon Z 7 are the two highest-resolution, full-frame mirrorless cameras on the market. The S1R features a high-resolution mode that can take 187MP images, but the Nikon is lighter and cheaper.
Mobile

Common Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e problems and how to fix them

Samsung's new Galaxy S10 range is gorgeous and extremely powerful. But they're not perfect, and you may discover some issues with your new phone. Here are some of the most common Galaxy S10 problems and how to fix them.
Mobile

Michael Kors updates its Sofie smartwatch, but still uses a processor from 2016

Michael Kors announced an update to the Sofie smartwatch, now offering heart rate monitoring, GPS, and NFC support. There's only one problem — the device still offers the Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor.
Product Review

Screen snags aside, the Galaxy Fold is an exciting step toward a foldable future

Samsung's Galaxy Fold is the company's first foldable phone, with two screens, six cameras, and a dual-cell battery. The phone may be delayed due to display issues, but that doesn't stop us from asking -- what's it like to use?
Photography

Capture life in every direction with the best 360 cameras

While 360 cameras are still a new technology, that doesn't mean there's not a few that are worth a look. Whether you want to shoot from the middle or just need a simple, affordable option, here are the best 360 cameras on the market.
Home Theater

The best MP3 players of 2019 cram tons of music into a small package

Want to go for a run, but your phone is weighing you down? Don't sweat it. Can't fit your whole music library on your smartphone? No worries. Check out our list of the best MP3 players, and find one that works for you.
Apple

WWDC 2019 Complete Coverage

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is a key tech event each year, and for Apple fans, it will be one of the two best times of 2019 (along with "new iPhone day," of course). For the last few years, Apple has debuted much of its…
Mobile

Whether by the pool or the sea, make a splash with the best waterproof phones

Whether you're looking for a phone you can use in the bath, or you just want that extra peace of mind, waterproof phones are here and they're amazing. Check out our selection of the best ones you can buy.
Mobile

Walmart drops a killer deal on the Apple iPad Mini 4 tablet

The Apple iPad still reigns supreme in the tablet market, and the pint-sized 7.9-inch iPad Mini is the perfect everyday carry companion. Now’s the perfect chance to score a deal on the last-gen iPad Mini 4 before it’s gone for good.
Mobile

Google Creative Lab’s new AR experiment helps you learn how to draw

Google's Creative Lab developed an experiment called Drawalong AR that could make it easier for aspiring artists to follow YouTube tutorials. The experiment essentially leverages Google's ARCore to create a virtual tracing paper.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.