With a flick of the wrist

An instant. That’s how long it takes to connect you with 9-1-1. How could we possibly get any faster than that? How could we possibly improve on an instant connection? What does the future hold for 9-1-1 and how is it going to impact the way that we contact emergency services, a service that Americans call 240 million times per year?

We’re going to come out and say it. It’s somewhat difficult to improve on ‘an instant.’ When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, he set into motion a device that would end up controlling our lives for the better part of 140 years. Bell’s invention would take many forms over the past century, but the concept would remain the same: connecting you to those you need most when you need them most.

Today, the telephone has shrunk in size and has a lot of new features (plus, Angry Birds), but it is still the primary communications device for almost everyone on the planet. So, how do we take that one step further, especially in regards to contacting first responders? By moving beyond the phone and adapting the very tools around us into communication devices.

With the increasing popularity of Internet of Things (IoT), it has become routine to have everything from your TV to your coffeemaker connect to the Internet.  But what about your smoke detector, floodlights, and doorbell? These connected devices, as well as ‘assistants’ such as Google Home or Amazon Echo, can provide a range of diagnostic information and alert first responders about potential issues. A connected smoke detector can send out an alert to the local fire station if a user doesn’t deactivate it in time or if it senses dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. A connected door lock could signal police if someone tampers with it or has been jarred open. The days of arriving home to a broken door and ransacked house will soon be gone.

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While your property may be safe, what about your life and limbs? How can you better connect with 9-1-1 when you’re out and about? Yes, there’s a good chance you’re going to have your phone with you, but there are many instances where you’re not going to want to, or be unable to, use it.

For someone walking down a dark alley, the bright screen of a modern smartphone could attract more attention from unsavory individuals. If you are the victim of an attack and have had your phone stolen, how are you able to contact authorities? Today, there are more and more connected wearables that quickly and easily allow you to get in touch with a 9-1-1 dispatcher.

The obvious, and most famous, is the smartwatch. While some smartwatches need to remain connected to your phone, others will have a SIM card and a data connection.  These smartwatches can not only track your movement but also your heart rate. Should your heart rate reach dangerous levels (or possibly even stop), then an alert would be sent to the nearest ambulance.

Connected jewelry such as pendants and rings can be a subtle but powerful connection to emergency services. Just tapping a necklace or ring could easily alert an alarm company or first responders in times of need. Connected jewelry is becoming a favored accessory for elderly and immobile patients to alert authorities in the event of an accident.

Cars are also proving to be an irresistible space for connected technology. As our cars get smarter and smarter, they are able to collect and process more data about our driving habits and in the event of an accident can automatically contact emergency services. Technology such as OnStar and Verizon’s Hum+ already offer vehicle diagnostics and emergency contacts and are able to help navigate as well as emit a Wi-Fi signal.  

For Amir Elichai, the CEO of Carbyne, the allure of wearables and connected devices lies in the fact that safety should always be close by. “We want to make it as easy as possible to contact emergency services” Elichai said “you should never be more than a few meters away from some sort of device that connect you with first responders.”

As states and counties begin to implement next generation 9-1-1 infrastructure, an infrastructure that will be heavily dependent on connecting with people over the internet, it is also preparing for a radically different future. For those who will eventually become the dispatchers of NG9-1-1 they will find themselves taking calls from fewer people and more devices.

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