NG911 interoperability testing facility to receive certification

11/21/2022 9:21:06 AM Michael O'Boyle

That emergency services can be accessed by dialing 911 on a telephone anywhere in the United States represents a major infrastructure achievement, but these systems were designed to support voice calls over telephone networks. A set of upgrades called Next Generation 911 (NG911) will adapt emergency response networks to support voice calls over the Internet, as well as text messaging and video.

The Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has been participating in the development of an NG911 interoperability testing facility at the Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center at Texas A&M University (TAMU) under Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) joint sponsorship and funding. CIRI was recently awarded an additional 12-month contract to continue this work with TAMU.

Interoperability, the ability of disparate components and systems from multiple vendors to work together seamlessly, is not only crucial for the 911 system - whose networks and call centers are independently constructed and managed - but it is required by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.

Randall Sandone, the executive director of CIRI, explained that “End-to-end interoperability of NG911 components and systems is critical to ensure that communication, be it voice, text, or video, gets from the caller with the emergency through the many intermediary systems to reach the first responder quickly and completely. Lives, literally, may depend upon it.”

In an earlier phase of the project, CIRI and TAMU brought stakeholders from government, industry, standards bodies, and the first responder community together to define the requirements of a scalable, sustainable, and interoperable testing framework. The CIRI/TAMU research team will continue to engage these stakeholders throughout the current phase of the project. These stakeholders include DOT and DHS as well as the National Emergency Number Association, the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technology, the National Association of State 911 Administrators, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and various organizations representing first responders.

Construction of the interoperability testing lab is complete, but in this phase of the project it must be certified to meet the ISO 17025 standard for testing laboratories. In addition, the full interoperability test suite must be developed and validated. And finally, a financial sustainability model must be refined to ensure that the testing can continue into the future without the need for ongoing government funding.  

UIUC professor of computer science Darko Marinov, an expert in system testing, has been actively involved in the project and will continue to serve on the research team – together will colleagues from TAMU through to completion of the project.