While we take for granted now that we can use text, video and data to communicate with each other, this is not yet the case for emergency communications. However, enhanced 911, or Next Generation 911, aims to enable emergency services to handle text, video or hi-def pictures, which is clearly invaluable for ensuring individual and communal safety. For example, the proliferation of smart phones has made it so that citizens can text police departments when in need of help. Or, they can send pictures of videos of emergency situations, which help enhance and accelerate the response of emergency services.

If one thinks about a 911 call as a type of value-added service, then it’s easy to see that processing media streams into a NG911 or e911 PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) requires a media server. Likewise, recording the call, for instance, requires a media server. Potentially mixing different media streams and having a voice or video conference call requires a media server.  

Role of Media Servers in NG911 and e911

The concept of “any media, any device” is important for the PSAP. For example, consider the need to transcode different voice or video formats that are submitted from citizens who are using different devices (i.e. smartphone, tablet) as well as connecting over different cellular networks to communicate. Perhaps they’re using the data path of the cellular network. Maybe they’re using a laptop on a wired connection.  All of these networks could potentially use different codecs, and so transcoding would be required. Again the media server would handle this.

Taking this one step further, WebRTC could also play a key role in facilitating emergency communications. This is because WebRTC uses different voice and video codecs than the cellular network, so the transcoding required (mentioned in the above paragraph) are key. However, WebRTC could also enable a simple 911 client.

Software-based media servers also play a key role in the development of  NG911 and e911 solutions.  Just like any other contact center, a movement to cloud-based solutions is emerging within this space. As such, software-based media servers enabled this movement to the cloud much more easily.

To learn more about how media servers play a pivotal role as a key element in a NG911 and e911 solution, please download our whitepaper.