NEXES Showcases Next Generation Capabilities

From January 17th to 19th, in Milan, Italy, the NEXES partners conducted several showcases aiming to demonstrate novel and advanced capabilities for next generation emergency services, currently designed, developed and implemented as an integral part of the NEXES System and Apps.

Next Generation Emergency Call via the NEXES App

Performed by Christer Ulfsparre and Filip Asplund from Omnitor, this showcase presented the NEXES capability to conduct a next generation emergency call, that is, an emergency call supporting video, audio and real-time text communication (commonly known as Total Conversation), as well as personal data exchange.

Filip Asplund introducing the NEXES System

The NEXES components showcased included the NEXES App and a web-based Public Answering Safety Point (PSAP) client, capable of adequately handling the caller’s video, audio and real-time text exchanges, as well as the location data.

The Total Conversation emergency call relied on a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) server and media relay terminating in the NEXES Web PSAP System. As the caller moved, the NEXES App was capable of sending updated and accurate location information, issued from the phone’s location features, to a location server to then be retrieved by the NEXES Web PSAP.

Also relevant, this showcase highlighted the NEXES App capability to also send (in the initial SIP INVITE, using the Accept-Language header field) information on the caller’s language preferences, thus enabling the emergency call to be routed to a PSAP centre that is able to handle the caller’s language of choice, including sign language.

The NEXES Web PSAP showing the caller’s video and location (right side)
Native Emergency Call over VoWiFi carrying Location Information

Presented by Marius Iordache and Vlad Sorici from Orange Romania (ORO), this showcase revealed the NEXES capability to make emergency calls over VoWiFi using a next generation communications network, including the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and VoWiFi architecture elements (the Evolved Packet Data Gateway or ePDG and the Authentication, authorisation, and accounting or AAA server), and the NEXES Legacy PSAP Gateway. This Gateway exhibited NEXES capability to translate SIP messages to ISUP messages and also Real Time Protocol (RTP) to Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) traffic.

As part of this showcase, the NEXES components used were actually integrated in ORO’s communication network and the emergency call was answered by a real PSAP operator (previously informed and prepared), so that the process of the routing of the emergency call through the network could be traced and visualised.

Network Components Used for the Emergency Call
NEXES NG PSAP Enabling SIP calls, Video and Location

The first NEXES NG System showcase was led by Cosmin Carjan and Claudiu Gura from Teamnet and it exhibited the addition of video, audio and data exchange (device location) capabilities to a legacy professional PSAP system (currently used by the Romanian emergency services) in order to transform it into a next generation PSAP system.

The NEXES NG PSAP System showing the caller’s video (left) and location (right)

The end-to-end rich multimedia emergency call was originated by the NEXES App and answered in NEXES NG System Console, comprised of three screens. The PSAP operator was able to receive the emergency call, issue a request form and handle the caller’s video and audio communications. The caller’s location, benefitting from the phone’s capabilities, was also received at the dedicated screen.

For the purpose of this showcase, it were used PSAP Servers supporting SIP and VoIP located in Romania and the NEXES Location Server currently located in Sweden.

Introduced by Kari Uusitalo from IDS, the second NEXES NG System showcase verified the incorporation of real-time text capabilities in the NEXES NG PSAP System, using as basis the advanced professional PSAP system currently used by the Finnish emergency services. It also worked seamlessly with the NEXES App.

For the purpose of this showcase, PSAP system instances were deployed in laptop computers. They successfully proved the capability to handle a SIP emergency call issued by the NEXES App using real-time text features.

Emergency Call carrying User Information in a Roaming Situation

Organised by Bertrand Casse and Sergio Vavassori from Deveryware, this showcase illustrated NEXES’s implementation of the Pan-European Specifications for Emergency Applications (PESEA) to deliver user information, including location data, in a roaming situation.

Existing emergency Apps tend to involve application providers operating at a national or regional level, at best. Using the PESEA, NEXES leverages on the capability to exchange caller information, including location data, across borders and in a secure way.

This showcase illustrated a Spanish tourist in Slovenia calling for emergency assistance with an emergency App registered in Murcia, Spain. Three PSAP Service Providers (PSPs) were used: the originating PSP in Madrid, an intermediary PSP in Murcia and the Terminating PSP deployed in Slovenia.

Using the NEXES Application Programming Interface (API) components, an emergency App initiated a voice-based emergency call. For the purpose of this showcase, simulated location information was used, identifying the location in Slovenia. Consequently, the terminating PSP located in Slovenia received the emergency call and the user information provided through the intermediate Madrid PSP.

Because the emergency App is registered in Murcia, caller data is received by the Murcia PSP and forwarded to the national PSP (in Madrid), which then directs it to the last destination: the Terminating PSP in Slovenia. It is the Slovenian PSP that finally forwards the user information, including location information, to the Slovenia PSAP centre.

Next Generation  Emergency Calls via WebRTC Technology

Led by Janez Sterle and Urban Sedlar from the University of Ljubljiana, this showcase focused on the adoption of Web-based Real Time Communications (WebRTC) technology to develop next generation emergency services based on rich multimedia end-to-end communication (video, audio and chat).

Using the WebRTC NEXES App, a caller in distress initiates an emergency call that is routed to the appropriate PSAP centre, which also accesses the user’s information, namely location data, following the PEMEA specification. The PSAP centre receives an incoming emergency notification and establishes the video communication with the caller in the WebRTC NEXES PSAP System, displaying the caller’s location information on a map.

Once the call is terminated, the PSAP operator redirected the caller to a web-based survey, which collects additional data regarding the emergency.

This showcase made use of several NEXES components, including the NEXES APIs, the WebRTC NEXES App, the WebRTC NEXES PSAP and a Mobile Positioning Server (MPS) to provide the information location issued by the mobile operator.

NEXES Present at the Barrierefreier Notruf Conference

NEXES Shares the Latest Advances for Barrier-Free Emergency Services

The NEXES Consortium was present at the Barrierefreier Notruf (Barrier Free Emergency Calls) Conference, held at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Berlin (Germany) on November 29th 2016, upon the kind invitation of the German Deaf Association. On October 24th 2016, the German Deaf Association and the German Society of the Hearing Impaired unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a nationwide emergency-free emergency call.

Represented by the European Union of the Deaf (EUD), the NEXES Consortium participated in the debate concerning the present situation of the German Emergency Services with respect to the implementation of general accessibility and of an inclusive federal emergency and catastrophe warning system. At present, the Telecommunications Act (TKG) only allows telephone and fax access to the emergency call stations as input channels for communication and for accompanying data (e.g., location data). Therefore, much is needed to meet the needs of the deaf and of the hard of hearing citizens.

Frankie Picron (EUD) introduced the ambitious objectives of the NEXES Action and presented the advances attained with the NEXES System and Apps, and already validated with different emergency services, concerning the incorporation of accessibility features, such as video, real-time text, sign language interpretation and user data information on language preferences and health data, all of which contribute to the implementation of next generation emergency services that are truly accessible and inclusive.

The Barrierefreier Notruf Conference conveyed a good opportunity to disseminate the NEXES results to an audience of 100 stakeholders from Germany’s emergency services, civil society, policy-makers and governmental authorities.

NEXES Exercise with the Swedish Emergency Services

On September 20th 2016, Omnitor organised a NEXES walkthrough exercise involving six representatives of the Swedish national emergency service operator (SOS Alarm, a member of the NEXES EUAB) and of the Agency for Participation (MDF), with extensive expertise in the 112 service (112 service coordination, 112 system development and architecture, head of development for the112 medical service, 112 operators and 112 service trainers) and accessibility in communications (accessibility issues at the federal level).

The Exercise addressed three of the NEXES Reference Scenarios – A Deaf Arab Citizen Witnessing an Accident; a Fire and Explosion At A Power Plant; and A French Tourist Lost In The Mountains With Hypoglycaemia -, and aimed to better understand the routines and capabilities in the present Swedish 112 service, its limitations and needs, as well as to collect knowledge and feedback from the SOS Alarm professionals on the NEXES system and the NEXES Citizen App, particularly considering the information exchange and interaction between citizens and emergency services.

Based on the hypothetical emergency situations in the scenarios, SOS Alarm representatives explained the capabilities and limitations of the current 112 service handled by 14 PSAP operators, such as the need to pre-register in order to use the Swedish 112SMS service (requires knowing the Swedish language), the lack of capability to call a number that did not initiated an emergency call, the system’s restrictions on location and use of In Case of Emergency contacts, the ability to relay public alerts incoming from the federal level, the inability to send geographically-targeted messages, the absence of a social media channel, the lack of effective daily collaboration/contact between different national emergency services.

Specifically created for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, the Swedish 112SMS service receives about 300 calls per year, half of which are either hoax calls or citizens checking to see if the service is available. One specific downside of this service is that an actual emergency may require more than 30 SMS exchanges before assistance is dispatched. It is a time-consuming resource that would largely benefit from real-time texting or even video connection. SOS Alarm has agreements in place with interpreter/translator services for voice calls in several languages but to set-up these calls may take more than 15 minutes, too long for emergency cases.

In addition, SOS Alarm declared that their current system hinders the 112 operators’ capability to retrieve location information from calling deaf citizens calling the service. The system only provides location information on registered voice calls and there is no function enabling 112 operators to call back deaf citizens. Consequently, the opportunity to have enhanced location information, associated with emergency calls, namely those initiated by deaf citizens, is considered of high interest. SOS Alarm will be fitted with Advanced Mobile Location (AML) technologies in 2017, but already a shortcoming has been identified: SMS are sent to the user’s home country if the user is abroad since the AML specification does not consider the roaming issue.

Concerning NEXES, the Exercise participants highlighted the interest of emergency services in receiving medical and health data, in having pre-defined emergency messages, in being able to communicate using real-time text, real-time public early warnings and notifications, the identification of emergency SMSs as emergency calls, use of icons and body images to clarify the emergency, defining the injury/pain area, the integration of a social media channel and a direct point of contact with emergency services across Europe.

SOS Alarm representatives consider the opportunity to receive medical data is important to identify situations when the citizen is talking incoherently or making indistinct sounds. Providing information on a possible stroke victim, or a speech problem, a temporary disability, or a medical condition such as diabetes or epilepsy could be of great assistance to prepare adequate and timely emergency response. The capability to include speech-to-text transcription in the system would be desirable. In cases where the caller is not the victim but a bystander, it is important that the medical data retrieved is not from the wrong citizen. The interview techniques should also be adapted to Yes/No questions and also the use of symbols and pre-defined messages should be limited with a clear objective to provide basic information: type of assistance needed (medical, law enforcement, fire-fighting), area of body affected (head, heart, arms, legs), victim status (awake, breathing, unconscious). In this case, if the victim is wearing health devices that transmit data to emergency services, it would be excellent, in SOS Alarm’s perspective.

SOS Alarm also conveyed their expectation that next generation emergency services would improve the cooperation amongst different PSAP services across Europe. As an example, they shared an experience involving a Swedish citizen that was in Spain and suffered an accident. The relatives in Sweden were alerted and contacted the Swedish PSAP to reach their Spanish counterpart and provide assistance. However, it was not possible for the Swedish PSAP to reach the Spanish emergency services and the Swedish citizen in Spain died, without assistance.

On the topic of public alert, Swedish public alerts can either convey warnings or information and SOS Alarm is only the relay entity, since the responsibility rests at the federal level. The channels used are radio and overlay subtitles on television. It is also possible to use SMS and voice call channels but, due to regulatory restrictions associated with privacy concerns, SOS Alarm is not allowed to send SMS messages based on geographic location. The ambition of SOS Alarm is to be authorised and able to define the geographic sector for the distribution of public alerts, including accessing information on citizens entering or leaving the affected area. Also it is highlighted the importance to maintain open communication with citizens, providing updates of the public alert situation. A relevant option is also the possibility to distinguish public alert SMSs from regular SMSs. The opportunity to benefit from social media channels is also welcome to the SOS Alarm representatives, aiming to early detect a potential large-scale emergency situation.

The feedback provided by the SOS Alarm professionals during the Exercise was extremely valuable for the work being conducted on the development of the NEXES App for citizens and of the next generation PSAP systems.

NEXES Exercise on Accessibility

On May 19th 2016, during the NEXES Workshop on Accessibility, the NEXES RIA began its Campaign of Demonstrations, hosting its first Exercise, dedicated to the Accessibility in emergency services in general and the Accessibility features in NEXES, in particular.

The presence of a large audience of members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community presented an excellent opportunity to engage directly with members of the deaf community and to secure valuable feedback on their experience dealing with emergency services and on the enhancements considered by NEXES.

Organised by EUD, the exercise took the form of a ‘walkthrough’ of an emergency response scenario involving a terrorist attack on a mass transit system (NEXES Reference Scenario 3), delivered in sign-language by representatives from EUD and OMN, with designated intervals for facilitated group discussion. The method used for the table top exercise presented no logistical constraints to the scale of the scenario. Being large-scale and complex, this scenario also gave the opportunity to explore the widest possible range of NEXES functionality and end-user requirements. The following images helped to set the ambiance for the exercise.

The NEXES Exercise on Accessibility counted with 38 participants from across Europe, each presenting deafness or hard-of-hearing impairment. The statistics on the participants show:

Discussion topics focused therefore on 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.

Organised by EUD, the exercise took the form of a ‘walkthrough’ of an emergency response scenario involving a terrorist attack on a mass transit system (NEXES Reference Scenario 3), delivered in sign-language by representatives from EUD and OMN, with designated intervals for facilitated group discussion. The method used for the table top exercise presented no logistical constraints to the scale of the scenario. Being large-scale and complex, this scenario also gave the opportunity to explore the widest possible range of NEXES functionality and end-user requirements. The following images helped to set the ambiance for the exercise.

Participants’ feedback to the NEXES Exercise on Accessibility, and in consideration of the proposed NEXES capabilities, brought about considerations that may not be readily apparent to non-deaf individuals. For example, the 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. The feedback on ensuring a highly visual intuitive user interface to the NEXES App is also relevant to communicate with tourists and early migrants who cannot speak the native language. It also highlighted that accessibility is not simply a matter of developing solutions targeted at specific user groups, but rather needs the promotion of universal accessibility by employing technologies and processes which facilitate access for the greatest range of users.

Participants also emphasised the need for the NEXES App to provide accurate information sent by emergency services, the ability to verify the information’s provenance and its update capability, as well as made relevant suggestions for simple NEXES App functions, such as the utility of a ‘one touch’ system, accessible when a device’s screen is locked, the value of tutorials on emergency preparedness and first aid, the relevance of clear mapping highlighting areas of danger/safety and the opportunity to include a signal/beacon to alert the deaf of the emergency services’ presence. In addition, concerning the deaf community, participants reinforced that the challenges of communicating with emergency services persist after initial contact, throughout subsequent interactions with First Responders, since it is obvious the lack of training among emergency services personnel on how to communicate with the deaf population.

All the findings and conclusions retrieved from the NEXES exercise participants’ feedback are an integrated part of the overall NEXES user requirements and are being duly considered in the development of the NEXES App for citizens.