NEXES Welcomes New Advisors

The NEXES Workshop on Accessibility Raises Global Interest in Accessible Emergency Services

The NEXES Consortium announces that Mr. Wouter Bolier, representing Dovenschap, the Dutch Association for the Deaf, and Mrs. Sherrie Beaver, the Project Officer for the National Australian Sign Language (Auslan) Communication for Emergencies have expressed their interest in NEXES’s results towards introducing accessibility features in emergency services.

Mrs. Beaver is currently managing a project in Australia that aims to improve communication between emergency services and the deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing citizens who rely on Auslan during the preparatory, response and recovery stages of natural hazard emergencies. The findings of this project are valuable for NEXES’s development of accessibility features and their integration in next generation emergency services.

Mr. Bolier is now participating in the Dutch government study, headed by TNO, to discuss shortcomings of the national total conversation system implemented in 2015. NEXES was invited to contribute to this study, by presenting its expertise in the design and implementation of Total Conversation capabilities. The NEXES partner OMNITOR, represented by Mr. Gunnar Hellström, will be the designated NEXES’s specialist in Total Conversation processes, standards and tools, and a fruitful outcome is expected from this cooperation.

Marco Manso, Director of Innovation of RINICOM UK and Coordinator of NEXES, said, “We welcome the new advisors to the NEXES end-users community, which is expanding throughout the world. We believe that the cooperation model implemented in the NEXES End-Users Advisory Board is a strong value proposition for highly-qualified advisors seeking to explore the real opportunities offered by the next generation emergency services and these new advisors do embody it fully. The cooperation with the Australian project brings an external perspective to a common problem that is to improve communications between the disabled community and the emergency services. And the timing for the new Dutch government initiative is rather interesting, since it coincided with the NEXES Workshop on Accessibility. NEXES will be assisting them to review the status of their national total conversation system and propose improvement measures that make universal, democratic and accessible emergency services a reality.”.

Enjoy the Second NEXES Newsletter!

The NEXES RIA has just completed its first year of work and what an incredible year it has been!

NEXES has successfully established the basis for its second year of development: the NEXES End-User Requirements are completed, the NEXES Key Performance Indicators have been identified and the pan-European emergency Apps standard has been thoroughly analysed to ensure NEXES’s compliance.

Moreover, NEXES has attained its second Milestone, by creating the NEXES Testing Regime and Validation Framework, which will enable to test and assess the performance of NEXES solutions as well as of any other reference implementation of next generation emergency services. As such, the NEXES Testing Regime and Validation Framework is a key asset to reinforce the European standardization effort towards the next generation 112 emergency services!

The NEXES partners have indeed been quite active in the collaboration with European and international standardisation and regulatory bodies. NEXES accompanied the recent publication of the final report of the ETSI STF 489 on the use of Total Conversation for Emergency Services and the invitations for NEXES to participate in the DG CONNECT Workshop on 112 Numbering Issues and the 13th Meeting of the Project Team Emergency Services are excellent examples of how NEXES innovations and vision are relevant benchmarking on the path towards creating next generation emergency services.

In this edition of the NEXES Newsletter, we present you a selection of articles and news that highlight the accomplishments of the NEXES Consortium. With a special focus on accessibility features and key performance indicators, NEXES is paving its way forward as a cutting-edge research and innovation action.

We kindly invite you to find out more about NEXES at http://nexes.eu.

Marco Manso
NEXES Coordinator

NEXES – Paradigm for Next Generation Communications at COMM 2016

Orange Romania Attended the International Conference on Communications 2016 As Gold Sponsor

Representing the NEXES Consortium, Orange Romania (ORO) is proud to have been agold sponsor of the 11th International Conference on Communications 2016, a technology-driven event that took place in Bucharest, Romania, from June 9th to 11th 2016, organised by the Military Technical Academy and the Politehnica University of Bucharest, under the aegis of the IEEE Romania Section and the Romanian Academy of Technical Sciences.

comm_2016The Conference is geared toward academics, industry professionals and government agencies to present their achievements in communication technology and related fields. ORO made a presentation titled “Evolution to Next generation Emergency Services (NEXES) – Horizon 2020 Proposal” and attendees gained a better understanding of how actual emergency services in UE operate, focused on daily situations, and how NEXES, as a reference implementation of next generation emergency services, is able to improve the emergency services’ performance and communication dynamics with the public.

Indeed, a considerable attention was given to NEXES’s state-of-the-art opportunities, namely the evolution to IP-enabled technologies that empower multimedia communication, total conversation capabilities and the use of multimedia Apps. Teamnet (TN) also provided the audience first-hand insight on the new developments concerning the NEXES Testbed and integration works, which are intended to test and validate every implementation of next generation emergency services.

ORO and TN interventions at the COMM 2016 represented a perfect occasion to announce the breakthrough advances in emergency services attained by NEXES, promoting the Action and educating relevant stakeholders to the Action’s benefits and potential impact in Europe.

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Educating to Innovate

Orange Romania Includes NEXES in the Education and Training Programme 2016/17

NEXES is one of the novelties introduced by ORO in the company’s Education and Training Programme for 2016/17, an initiative organised for the last fifteen years in partnership with the Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunication and Technology Information (ETTI) of the Politehnica University of Bucharest with the clear purpose of capturing students to the ITC business world.

ORO’s 176-hour Programme envisages technology transfer activities in Education, Innovation and IT&C development and provides a fully-integrated perspective by comprising scholarships, lectures and workshops, recruiting and internships in Orange, entrepreneurship practices and hands-on experience in the areas of programming, robotics, cloud management, cyber security, the Internet of Things and 5G communications. With an audience of forty students per session, the new ORO Education and Training Programme starts in July 1st 2016 and, for twelve months, will provide students with in-depth insight into the NEXES innovations, inspired by IP-enabled technologies.

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The “Next Generation Emergency Services” is part of the IT&C New Trends: Technology, Architecture and Services module and will engage the participating students into the technological gaps experienced by today’s emergency services and how the NEXES Action, and ORO’s expertise in particular, assist in surpassing known shortcomings to the benefit of citizens and emergency services.

NEXES special communication activities are focused in very specific events that target a key stakeholder audience upholding significant influence with respect to the endorsement or early adoption of NEXES’s results. In this particular situation, it is expected that NEXES featuring in ORO’s Education Programme will provide adequate insight on IP-enabled technologies in a specific application field (emergency services) and promote the NEXES new digital services for citizens to interact with emergency services.

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NEXES Invited to the European Regulatory Authorities Meeting

NEXES Innovations are Key to European Regulation Effort on Emergency Communications

The NEXES Consortium announces the invitation by the President of the Working Group Numbering and Networks (WG NaN) to participate at their 13th Meeting of Project Team Emergency Services (PT ES), a discussion group dealing with the many aspects relevant for the modernisation of emergency services, including the adoption of IP, multimedia and location improvement.

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This invitation follows the presentation the NEXES Consortium has made on December last at the DG CONNECT’s “Advanced Numbering Systems for Communications Services in the Digital Single Market” Workshop. At this meeting, European policy-makers and telecommunications operators became aware of NEXES’s advances in the integration of new IP-enabled technologies in emergency services and the impact on routing, prioritisation, bandwidth and quality of service aspects.

At the PT ES Meeting, the NEXES Coordinator Marco Manso presented the latest developments of the Action, whereas the NEXES Location and Pan-European Mobile Emergency Application (PEMEA) expert Bertrand Casse focused his address on the definition of the pan-European standard for emergency Apps and the improvements on emergency calls’ location. The expert audience, including representatives from the European Commission and regulatory bodies across Europe, was highly interested in NEXES’s evolution and insisted on a continuous interaction between NEXES and the PT ES members, who were then invited to join the NEXES End-users Advisory Board.

“NEXES has trailed a solid path towards the integration of IP-technologies for the modernisation of emergency services. We expect that the synergies with the PT ES group will help the effort to create a new regulatory framework for emergency communications”, said Marco Manso, Director of Innovation at RINICOM UK and NEXES Coordinator.

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The Emergency Exercise at the NEXES Accessibility Workshop

The first NEXES Exercise was conducted as part of the NEXES Workshop on Accessibility, hosted by the European Union of the Deaf and Omnitor in Sheveningen, The Hague, on May 19th.

The Workshop addressed the theme of accessibility in emergency response. As well as the members of the NEXES Consortium, 45 members of the European Union of the Deaf were present, including the presidents of numerous national deaf associations. As such, the Workshop represented an unprecedented opportunity to engage directly with members of the deaf community, and to secure valuable feedback on their experiences of dealing with emergency services, and on the advancements considered by the NEXES Research and Innovation Action. Their position as leaders of national organisations, and as EUD members, means that they are also the individuals best placed to offer insight in to the broader social, political and cultural issues facing their community, which may in turn impact on their relationship with emergency services.

The deaf community currently experiences a variety of barriers in accessing and communicating with emergency services. There is considerable variation in available communication methods between different regions and countries, and those options that are available (e.g. SMS, fax, calls via relay services, pre-registrations, dedicated numbers to memorise) do not provide the fast and reliable access necessary for equality of access and effective emergency response.

For the hearing members in the room, the NEXES Workshop and Exercise were a fascinating experience: to be in a room full of individuals engaged in lively debate in complete silence was an interesting experience! And the reliance on interpreters for coordination and dialogue also gave an insight, however brief and incomplete, into the challenges facing those who experience impediments to communication in their daily lives.

The Exercise itself took the form of a ‘walk through’ of an emergency response scenario involving a terrorist attack on a mass transit system, delivered in sign-language by Lisa Åström of Omnitor, and Mark Wheatley and Frankie Picron of EUD, with designated intervals for facilitated group discussion. This format was decided upon due to the logistics of facilitating participation and discussion with the majority of participants communicating in sign-language, with considerable variation between different national sign languages, and with some of the participants relying on text transcription, aside from sign language and voice interpretation.

Discussion topics focused on the currently available communications options and any associated impediments to communication, as well as the proposed alternatives considered by NEXES, and their advantages and / or limitations. Topics were not overly proscriptive however, and free and creative discussion was encouraged and enthusiastically engaged in!. The exercise scenarios were written from a variety of perspectives (e.g. victim, bystander, concerned citizen) which provided a fruitful means of encouraging participants to think about the topics in the context of the broadest possible range of situations.

Careful consideration was given to the nature of the scenario prior to the exercise, and whether it would be potentially upsetting to participants. The consensus was that it is important for exercises to be as relevant and realistic as possible, but participants were briefed as to the nature of the scenario before the exercise commenced and given the opportunity to withdraw then, or at any point thereafter, if they so wished. As it turned out, the response to the scenario was extremely positive, including from participants who had first-hand experience of the recent attacks in Brussels and who considered such exercises a valuable means of sharing their experiences and the learning they gained from the events they had been involved in.

The overall response to the Exercise was extremely positive too. Despite the exercise running for nearly an hour and a half, several participants said they would have liked it to last longer! Discussion was extremely animated, and all participants engaged thoughtfully and enthusiastically. The feedback gathered was invaluable, and provides a fascinating insight in to the challenges facing the deaf community in their interactions with emergency services, and in to their requirements for the Next Generation of Emergency Services.

The feedback contributed by participants is therefore of great value to the NEXES Action. Among the more specific responses and suggestions were some broader considerations that may not be readily apparent to non-deaf individuals. For example, that fact that deaf people rely on visual communication, regardless of whether they have sign language as their first language, or whether they primarily lip-read. Such considerations are extremely important when considering how to best communicate information to deaf end-users in emergency situations. They also have broader applications, for example in communicating with tourists and early migrants who cannot speak the native language of the country they are in. This highlights the fact that accessibility is not simply a matter of developing solutions targeted at specific end-user groups, but rather necessitates the promotion of universal accessibility by employing technologies and processes which facilitate access for the greatest range of end-users.

Of relevance was also the participant’s emphasis on the accuracy of information sent by emergency services, the ability to verify the provenance of information, and how recent it is. Likewise suggestions about the simplicity of functionality e.g. the utility of a ‘one touch’ system, accessible when a device screen is locked, the value of tutorials on emergency preparedness and first aid, and of clear mapping functions that can highlight areas of danger / safety. All these suggestions are equally applicable to hearing end-users and highlight the fact that, in addition to the specific requirements of deaf end-users, there is also a great deal of commonality in end-user requirements, and the functionality developed on the basis of deaf end-user requirements could also be of benefit to others.

In addition to highlighting areas of commonality between end-users, the feedback further highlighted the diversity of the deaf community, and the need for emergency organisations and their partners to be attentive to the heterogeneous nature of end-user groups. A prime example of this was found in the participants’ views on issues of privacy. Whilst some participants expressed concern at the sharing of personal information with emergency services, some of the younger participants actually suggested the use of microchip implants that could automatically transmit personal data! Similarly, some participants stressed the need for the continued use of fax for elderly citizens, whilst others floated the idea of holograms and telepathy being employed in the future! Such wonderfully outlandish suggestions represent the extreme of the discrepancy between what is currently possible and what may be envisaged (or expected?!) by end-users. Science-fiction aside, they remind us of how far behind contemporary technology much emergency communication is. Some participants also referenced existing technologies such as Google Glasses, and the need for emergency services to be aware of emergent technology which may replace or supplement the current reliance on Smartphones and Tablets, and which will entail its own challenges in terms of accessibility and end-user requirements. They also remind us of the diversity of end-user opinions that NEXES will consider in order to best meet the needs of citizens. Fortunately there is plenty of ground between fax machines and holograms for NEXES to explore!

Participants also highlighted the broader challenges faced by the deaf community in emergency situations, most notably the fact that the challenges are not simply present in the initial contact but persist throughout subsequent interactions with First Responders and other emergency personnel. Most obvious among these is the lack of training among emergency services personnel on how to communicate with deaf people. A more specific challenge highlighted was the fact that in a dark, and / or chaotic environment a deaf casualty may not hear First Responders and may thus be unaware of their presence. In such a situation, it was suggested that an alarm / beacon function as part of the App could be of value. Such considerations highlight the need, emphasised by many of the participants, for a holistic approach to accessibility in emergency response, encompassing education (of both citizens and emergency services personnel), response and bilateral communication and interaction, within which NEXES could play a vital role.

Overall, the NEXES Exercise was a great success, highlighting both the vital importance of end-user expertise in the Action and the commitment of the Consortium partners to the Action’s success. Although we may be far from the futuristic stage envisaged by some participants, the NEXES Research and Innovation Action nevertheless represents an important and innovative effort in advancing the possibilities for a truly universal, democratic and inclusive emergency service, and this first Exercise has certainly validated this effort.