Since 2002, the European Union (EU) has adopted regulations to support the creation of a common, free-of-charge European 112 emergency number. Still, the organisation of emergency services remains an exclusive competence of EU’s Member States (MS). This national responsibility explains why today only a few European countries have 112 as the single emergency number and why Europe reveals a broad variety of organisational structures for the operationalisation of emergency services.
There are between 14 and 1060 Stage 1 Public Safety Answering Points or PSAPs (emergency call-handling) in each EU MS, with many more Stage 2 PSAPs (emergency response dispatch), and there are usually separate PSAPs for Firefighters, Police, Ambulance / Medical Assistance (Emergency Response Organisations or EROs and First Responders or FRs). In addition, PSAPs present different technical infrastructures, some equipped with advanced technology and others relying solely on basic communication tools.
The reality of European emergency services further highlights other issues or problems to be addressed:
- The communications between citizens and emergency services rely mainly on voice calls over fixed/landline or mobile networks;
- Caller location is carried out but its accuracy and precision still remains the biggest problem;
- Partial accessibility support is available for the 80-million European citizens with disabilities through Short Message Service (SMS) and fax;
- High number of false or hoax calls to emergency numbers.In essence, millions of citizens in distress call emergency services expecting a swift and effective response.
The number of emergency calls originating from mobile phones is continuously growing and many mobile callers are not able to indicate their precise location for optimum emergency response. These problems and issues are directly reflected in the main priorities identified by emergency services professionals when answering to surveys:
- Implementation of eCall, an automated emergency call service;
- Better accessibility for citizens with special needs, through Total Conversation (TC),smartphone emergency applications (Apps) and Emergency SMS;
- Reduction of false calls and integration of a call-back functionality;
- Improvement of caller location.
The definition and development of solutions for the main problems, issues and priorities identified by emergency services must be then enabled by next generation emergency services, of which NEXES aims to be a reference implementation.
The NEXES RIA aims therefore to research, test and validate the promising integration of IP-based communication technologies and interoperability within the next generation emergency services, so that they attain increased effectiveness and performance.
Specifically, NEXES improves the accessibility features in emergency services, implementing a Total Conversation model that combines audio, real-time text and video to serve all citizens, including those experiencing disability and having special needs (early migrants, tourists and the elderly). Further, NEXES is combining network operator’s caller location data, with device data and satellite-based data to establish a more accurate location of the caller and, with the user’s consent, this information is automatically incorporated in the emergency call and transmitted to emergency services. Finally, NEXES provides end-to-end connectivity to PSAPs, EROs, FRs and citizens, through the added value of IP-based communications and information technologies to promote emergency services’ interaction, cross-agency interoperability and cross-border coordination. Bringing forth innovations such as Total Conversation, Improved Location and Enhanced Interoperability, NEXES sets out to become the first ever reference implementation of an end-to-end next generation emergency service (NG112).
Also relevant is NEXES’s intent to observe in its innovative architecture and implementation work applicable regulations and standards within the emergency communications and interoperability domains. Moreover, NEXES is determined to produce valuable contributions to ongoing pan-European standardisation and regulatory efforts for the public emergency services sector, enabling market competitiveness (promote the EU market) and producing tangible benefits (advanced emergency services) for citizens across Europe and in Turkey.
NEXES’s end-game is then to empower emergency services that are truly Democratic, Universal and Inclusive, providing a panoply of communication channels between the citizens and emergency services that support both the emergency services and the citizens’ free choice of preferred communication means and do not present accessibility barriers to citizens, specifically citizens experiencing physical disability or impairment and citizens with special needs (early migrants, tourists and the elderly).
To pursue this ambitious endeavour, NEXES benefits from the broad know-how and competences of the NEXES Consortium, a team of seventeen world-class European entities from nine EU MS and Turkey, well-experienced in both the research and development of innovative solutions for the emergency sector and the delivery of emergency services to society across Europe and beyond. The NEXES partners combine experience, expertise and skills of technology and software providers (Rinicom, Aimtech, Deveryware, Insta, Omnitor and Teamnet), emergency services organisations (Ambulance and Emergency Physicians Association, Regional Emergency Agency, the Italian Fire Corps, Préfecture de Police and the West Yorkshire Police Authority), research and development laboratories (Institute of Communication and Computer Systems and the University of Ljubljana), telecommunication network and Voice-Over-IP providers (Orange Romania and Telekom Slovenije), in the development of the NEXES IP-enabled emergency system, displaying end- to-end connectivity and interoperability and revealing added-value capability improvements. The NEXES Consortium was also attentive in recruiting experts on accessibility (the European Union of the Deaf) and training (the Police College of Finland), which are key aspects for the societal acceptance and early adoption of next generation emergency services. It is the integrated contribution of all the 17 NEXES partners, as well as of the remaining 43 members of the NEXES end-users community that enables the synergetic development of the NEXES System, Apps and Recommendations and subsequent successful attainment of the NEXES Goals.