November 18, 2013

Inside GNSS and Good Morning America interview Jamie Barnett about needed improvements to 911 tracking systems

2 min

Venable partner and retired Navy Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett was interviewed by Inside GNSS on November 15, 2013 and ABC’s Good Morning America on November 18 about the need to improve location tracking of 911 calls made from mobile devices. Admiral Barnett serves as director of the FindMe911 Coalition which is pushing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider new requirements for phone companies to help 911 operators better locate people calling with mobile devices.

“The best way to do location accuracy for 911 indoors and outdoors is a hybrid system — one that uses triangulation with GPS,” Admiral Barnett told Inside GNSS. “The problem is that some of the carriers have moved away from the hybrid system, from using more than one thing. They use just GPS. GPS is great as long as you have an unobstructed view of the satellite. But can’t arrange your emergencies to make sure you have an unobstructed view of the satellite.” Relying only on a GPS system that does not work is contributing to many of the current problems, Admiral Barnett warned. “It really doesn't help the 911 center if you say, ‘Well the person who's calling 911 is somewhere within this mile radius,’” he said. Even worse, “sometimes it will tell them that they are in this smaller radius — and that will be wrong. Sometimes these backup technologies when the GPS is not available will give a misleading location.”

Of the 240 million 911 calls made each year, seventy percent are wireless with over half made indoors. “So this is big for our elderly population, for people who are disabled, and really just the way we communicate now,” Admiral Barnett said. He added that phone companies are not required to provide location data for indoor calls. Noting that some providers have technologies that will work indoors and outdoors, Admiral Barnett added, “That's why we say if you adopt indoor requirements, it really clears up all of the problems.” He said emergency officials want the FCC to address the problem quickly, saying, “what we started hearing from 911 professionals was: ‘we want indoor location accuracy — but we want the FCC to fix location accuracy. Period. It's not working anymore.’”

In an interview with Good Morning America, Admiral Barnett said “We just need the FCC to move forward on making sure that those technologies are used or employed through the United States.”