Emergency Caller Location Information (ECLI)
New Zealand has developed the Emergency Caller Location Information (ECLI) Service. The Service enables Public Safety Organisations (PSOs) to receive automatically generated geographical information about the location of a caller when an emergency call is connected to a mobile cellular network, from any mobile device. ECLI saves lives by decreasing the time taken to verify location and reduce the average dispatch time to incidents, with controls in place to protect callers’ personal information.
Every year millions of calls are made to emergency services and around 80% of them (and growing) are from mobile devices. In many cases callers do not know where they are, or they are unable to provide their location. Previously, where callers were unable to give an accurate location, emergency services call centres would have to request location information directly from the Mobile Network Operators (MNO). This process was slow, manual and limited to the location of the cell tower the device was last connected to, often with a very broad inaccurate location.
As way of addressing the problem, the New Zealand Government gave their approval for an upgraded Emergency Response System and directed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and New Zealand Police to progress with caller location capabilities.
The government then agreed to modifications to the proposal and directed MBIE to develop a system that could provide the best available caller location information and send it directly to the emergency services when an emergency call is made, requiring the caller to do nothing more than dial the emergency number on the standard keypad of their mobile device.
Implemented in May 2017, ECLI initially provided two sources of location information—there were very few examples globally to reference, resulting in a unique and innovative approach to resolve the problem; network-based location providing a low-precision, broad area of probability of where the caller is located and handset-based location providing high-precision. This provides GPS and Wi-Fi derived location, initially with Google on the Android operating system and then implemented through Apple’s iOS operating system. From October 2018, ECLI was extended to integrate with the 3G mobile networks through 3GPP Location Services mobile technology using the network control-plane to communicate directly with mobile devices during emergency calls to derive high-precision location. This addition to the Service has been significant in extending high-precision location information using aggregation formulas to gain the most precise location. The method is used for all devices; regardless of a mobile devices type, make or model.
The ECLI Service has provided significant benefits to New Zealanders, tourists visiting New Zealand and to PSOs by providing operational efficiencies, ultimately to enable emergency call-takers to identify the location of emergency mobile callers more quickly and with greater accuracy. This in turn has provided social benefit by improving the outcomes for New Zealanders and tourists in emergency situations.
ECLI uses multiple location methods, processes the messages, enriches the data, and then makes the location of the mobile device available to PSOs in real-time to support the dispatch of an emergency response.
Personal location information is collected and retained for a configurable period of time and is only used for the purpose of helping emergency services identify the location of a caller so they can respond to their request for help while maintaining privacy boundaries. An important feature of the service is that the caller is not required to do anything other than dial emergency services from the standard keypad of their mobile device.
By 2021, high-precision location information will be provided for 95% of all genuine mobile emergency calls. Quick and precise verification of a mobile emergency caller’s geographical location is vital for public safety and security, and in saving lives.
Since launch of ECLI the New Zealand PSOs have become to depend on the Service and have changed their internal processes regarding location validation accordingly.
Cases where ECLI has made a dramatic difference to an emergency outcome include rapid responses to seriously injured persons, motorcycle crash victims, people distressed or suicidal, people experiencing family violence, earlier responses to life-threatening fires, and many cases of people experiencing medical emergencies. The one thing these cases all have in common was that the callers all dialled 111 from their mobile device, automatically initiating the ECLI Service.
Further and ongoing development is underway to ensure the service maintains its cutting-edge pace with future technology changes. There is anticipation of a higher number of emergency calls being made over new technologies; including 5G, Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi), Internet of Things (IoT), eCall and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications, and work is underway to support them.
New Zealand is now seen by key multinational organisations as a global leader in mobile location technology implementation and a number of these organisations have made approaches with proposals to commercialise the service, making it available under licence or through a joint venture partnership.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
New Zealand is one of few countries to implement solutions providing Public Safety Organisations (PSOs) location information for emergency mobile callers, along with receiving a high yield of high-precision location records for all device types and models, including tourists to NZ. The service is built to adapt to future technology. The solution receives multiple sources of location information then aggregates this data to provide a diagrammatical view to PSOs either through a web user interface or through integration to Computer Aided Dispatch systems. Many countries experience privacy issues with collection of location data. NZ managed this through changing the legislation—Google refer to the solution as a model to follow. Personal identifiable data is managed with in-system privacy controls. NZ has established global relationships working closely with network providers, mobile operating system providers, handset manufactures, international governments and PSOs and their suppliers.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Since launch ECLI has been progressively enhanced, adding new features, functionality, and location methods (3GPP Location Services) to continuously improve location accuracy and PSO user experience. The DevSecOps development process brings customers directly into the design process, whilst the ECLI team in the Ministry develop and support the Service with security at the forefront.
The service will continue to be enhanced to keep pace with technologies that allow new ways of locating people (5G, VoIP, IoT, and eCall). Integration with these emerging technologies will ensure the levels of service experienced today continue to be achieved and exceeded.
ECLI is responding to separate requests from Police and search and rescue agencies; to provide location information for emergency response and search and rescue situations beyond the 111 system (e.g. for people who are missing). Legislation will be amended, and system improvements implemented to support the extended use of ECLI to save more lives.
Collaborations & Partnerships
ECLI is a unique collaboration between Government, Public Safety Organisations and Mobile Network Operators. Google considers ECLI an ELS Gold Partner with Trusted Testing Partnership status, and they work closely with Apple and a range of other global companies. New Zealand was the first country outside of Europe to implement ELS. The Privacy Commission has authorised ECLI to collect and use location data through an amendment to legislation, without requiring the consent of emergency callers.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
New Zealand’s Public Safety Organisations describe ECLI as a game-changer. They regularly share good news stories regarding the use of ECLI and its assistance in saving more lives and property. They view ECLI’s delivery of prompt, precise and accurate location, in real time as a key contributor in helping them to dispatch emergency response units more effectively. Since launch of ECLI emergency response dispatch times have showed visible improvements over pre-launch figures, with lives saved.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Since launch of ECLI, PSOs have achieved faster emergency call handling and more effective emergency response times. They are streamlining their call taking procedures in order to leverage ECLI, particularly where high precision location is available. ECLI is continually optimising its service to improve the yield of locations with high accuracy and precision. From Sept 2018 to Aug 2019 ECLI consistently delivered high accuracy and precision locations for 75% – 84% of smartphone calls to the 111 emergency services. This has already exceeded the US Federal Communications Commission targets of achieving 75% high accuracy location yield in 2020. ECLI works with Public Safety Organisations (PSO)s to report and analyse the benefits realised through the use of ECLI to provide continuous improvement. Baselines for measuring its effectiveness are established and PSOs share anonymised information about emergency calls. This allows ECLI to track and measure month-on-month improvements.
Challenges and Failures
ECLI relies on ongoing integration with technologies across all supplier and user platforms and systems. Since launch, ensuring the ongoing integration of ECLI with the mobile networks has been the greatest challenge, but one that stakeholders have managed to transcend. As new technologies continue to emerge, ECLI and its partners work collaboratively to build and deploy features that are compatible with next generation services. Iterative planning cycles allow adaptation to ensure continued delivery and to integrate ECLI enhancements with emergency services operational systems, while ensuring that the service itself does not degrade due to failure to build in compatibility with emerging technology. In addition, New Zealand’s telecommunications system does not live in isolation. ECLI has to ensure the service enhancements it deploys are in harmony with international standards and the mobile operating systems of global technology providers like Apple and Google.
Conditions for Success
Continued direct access to Mobile Network Operator (MNO) networks is critical to the success of ECLI. Three MNOs in NZ provide access allowing for the highest quality of location data to be provided for all calls. With the continuous advances in technology, it is critical the service keeps pace with changes implemented in the mobile networks to ensure the accuracy and continuity of location data is available to PSOs. Central Government provides funding of the Service, and Government is considering opportunity to introduce regulations that would compel the MNO to provide data and make any necessary changes to their systems when they introduce new capabilities to ensure the ongoing compatibility with ECLI at the time new services are launched. Highly focused and committed cross-agency teams of people manage, develop, enhance, and support the Service. The primary reason for the success of ECLI is linked to the ongoing commitment and dedication from these teams.
ECLI is a transferable technology and its owner, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), is currently working with New Zealand trade officials to explore potential adoption of ECLI by other jurisdictions; with the view of making things easy for customers and end users to interface with and use the service as part of their wider emergency systems. The ECLI team are working on a package of services that can be provided to the emergency response agencies in these jurisdictions; so removing any implementation risk and the need for expensive Research and Development investment. The conditions for transferability include: the presence in-country of a highly functioning and integrated telecommunications system; integrated emergency caller response systems e.g. a 111/911/112 type system; and legislation or regulations to protect user privacy.
The original mandate set out to develop a smart device application service and implement updates to emergency services back-end infrastructure; however, it was identified that an app-based system would not deliver the outcome sought by Government. This type of solution would rely on a user downloading the app and the effectiveness of use in an emergency situation were identified as risks.
A third party app is not part of the standard operating system of a smart device and as a result is limited in its ability to activate core functions on the device and cannot activate location services if they are turned off. International experience with third-party emergency apps has shown these types of apps carry increased risks with low user uptake, high ongoing support costs and a greater chance of technical failure.
In order to overcome these limitations New Zealand defined an improved solution which was easier to implement, had reduced costs, carried less risk and was simpler to upgrade and support. When the original business case was approved the high-precision location component was not an emerging standard. Now it is the preferred method for mobile caller location information. The change of direction with the solution approach enables New Zealand to provide near real-time location information for all mobile emergency calls, without the caller having to do anything other than dial emergency services from their handset, whilst ensuring their privacy protected.
In order for individual’s location data to be utilised in an emergency response situation, amendment to legislation was required. The Office of the Privacy Commission introduced regulations to enable the disclosure of emergency caller location information by network operators to emergency service providers, and the collection and use of ECLI by Public Safety Organisations for establishing the location of an individual who has made an emergency call to facilitate a response to that call.
The following are examples where ECLI has helped in emergencies: A group trekking had become lost, one of the party was injured and they had no food or water. They made a call to 111 from their mobile device. The call taker used ECLI to identify their location to within a six-metre radius. Police Search & Rescue services were dispatched and the group were rescued soon after.
Fire and Emergency services received a call from a male who had seen a fire whilst driving along a rural highway. The caller did not know his precise location. Using ECLI, the emergency services were able to locate the caller and the fire, and dispatch a crew to assist.
Ambulance services received a call from a male who was distressed and in severe pain. He was going in and out of consciousness and was very disoriented. He had been driving, but had woken up in a ditch with no knowledge of what had happened. Using ECLI, the emergency services were able to identify his location and get him the help he needed