The ways in which we communicate today are very different from the analog wired telephony world of 1968, when the nation’s first PSAP began serving the public. The advent of mobile text messages, mobile video, automatic crash notification systems, geographic positioning systems and other communications channels provide an exciting opportunity to provide faster and better emergency services. Leveraging these new technologies is just one of many reasons for the federal government-sponsored Next Generation (NG) 9-1-1 initiative.
911 voice logging recorder systems in NG9-1-1 are evolving to become standardized functional elements connected to other systems on a common network to log a variety of significant events. The problem is, the vast majority of the legacy PSAP recorders in use today were designed for a voice-only world and a circuit-switched network. They were purchased primarily on the basis of reliability and cost, not the flexibility of features and technology that would be flexible enough to adapt to these changes. Some of these units have the ability to capture and store screen actions initiated by the call-taker but virtually none have the ability to capture, index, archive, or retrieve text messages, video, telematics and other data calls. There are many other glaring deficiencies in legacy PSAP digital logging recorders. Here’s a brief summary of five of the most frequently reported limitations:
- Unable to capture multi-channel events
- Not architected to readily conform to coming changes
- Lack the security and authentication requirements of NG9-1-1
- Are not well integrated with leading VoIP, radio and CAD vendors
- Lack dispatch and call taker quality assurance evaluation tools
1. Capturing Multimedia Communications
Legacy Recorders: Majority are not designed to capture, store, and retrieve data messages. This is because PSAP call servers cannot capture and route data messages. However, IP-based multi-channel call servers have been available for many years and are in wide use in business enterprises and commercial contact centers. Many manufacturers do not even produce analog and TDM call distributors today and those that do are in the process of phasing them out. PSAPs will have to replace or upgrade (if possible) their legacy call servers with current-generation IP-PBX’s or ACD’s to meet the specifications of NG9-1-1. At that time, they will also need to replace the PSAP recorder.
Next Generation Recorders: Handle analog and digital TDM as well as VoIP voice, data, and text messages in a unified, consolidated fashion –this will facilitate your transition cost-effectively and enable unified capture of and access to all incident information, regardless of the channel that was used to report and resolve it.
2. Adaptability to Readily Conform to Changes – Open Architecture
Legacy Recorders: Closed systems designed with either fully or at least partially proprietary hardware and software - not economically scalable and often cannot be modified for IP. Consequently, PSAPs cannot use industry standard servers with common operating systems and file formats of captured communications. Legacy 911 logging recorder systems do not have open interfaces –that are recommended by NENA and US DOT under NG9-1-1 initiatives - and so cannot seamlessly integrate with the other PSAP systems that are (or will be) built to open standards. Examples include the new database formats specified for NG9-1-1 infrastructure, to include CAD systems, mapping software, and more. With closed systems, each integration point is a custom job adding to costs of acquisition and ownership and creating unnecessary complexity to the task of replacing legacy sub-systems.
Next Generation Recorders: Designed from the ground up with fully open, service oriented architecture that is inherently adaptable and flexible, open to integrations with other standards-based systems. The standards-based architecture of latest-generation recorders directly translates into lower investment and lower costs of operations – users can leverage COTS hardware and other 3rd party interfaces and data to subordinate the rules and procedures for data access to processes and policies. These recorders will capture inputs from any device; including, voice, data, and video. Each incident will be indexed with ANI/ALI information, incident number, and other identifiers like call taker name or ID and associated information such as CAD logs and maps. Incident scenarios will include all communications sequenced just as they happened, all plotted on a map to improve visual analysis
3. Security and Authentication Measures
Call recordings are often used as court evidence. It is very important that the recordings be secured from access by unauthorized personnel and if there is an intrusion that there be a mechanism for identifying and tracing the security breach.
Legacy Recorders: Many do not offer encryption of recordings and data, nor they come up with built-in audit trails to monitor and alert on access violations.
Next Generation Recorders: Delivered with encryption, file watermarking, password-protected exports, audit logs and more.
4. Tight Integration with Leading VoIP, Radio, CAD, and other Emergency Communications Systems
Legacy Recorders: Virtually none or only limited, expensive capability to convert to recording VoIP, CAD data, or P25 Radio voice and data. In some cases, the recorder is compatible with only one VoIP switch or radio system vendor. However, different vendors handle communications in different ways and with different communication protocols. While the ultimate objective of NG9-1-1 is to unify communication protocols, this transition will be very gradual.
Reliable and error-free integration between communications systems and the recording platform is rather important The recorder must be able to read the ANI, ALI, CLID, trunk ID, call taker ID, incident number, and other data captured by the call server, radio system, or CAD.
Next Generation Recorders: The top recording vendors will have proven integrations with the major PBX, CAD, and radio vendors. They would be development partners with multiple such manufacturers – to have full and complete access to the latest specifications and be able to certify that the recorder functions properly with various versions and releases of the vendor’s switch.
One of the many benefits of NG 9-1-1 is that by adopting Internet Protocol as the common voice and data communications language, subsystems and applications will be able to communicate with each other both internally and externally. The need for costly integrations will slowly diminish as savvy vendors will design their products to accommodate not only today’s complex environment but the all-IP environment of tomorrow. To learn more about NG9-1-1 recording requirements, check out this recent Podcast featuring Guy Clinch from Avaya and Patrick Botz from VPI.
5. Integrated Dispatcher Quality Assurance Evaluation and Coaching Tools
The ability to maintain or improve quality of emergency response and objectively monitor progress is critical especially at the time of implementation of new NG9-11 infrastructure.
Legacy Recorders: Typically unavailable with integrated quality assurance feature sets, not designed to assist with the selection of calls for supervisor evaluation, nor to provide management with helpful tools for designing and completing the evaluation forms.
Next Generation Recorders: Automatically present evaluators with targeted evaluation forms and synchronized interaction audio and screen video (if captured) – selected manually or automatically based on rules for identification of critical calls - to enable efficient assessment of single calls or entire incidents.
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