The long awaited E112 legislation which dictates that all mobile operators have to provide location information to the emergency services across the European Union, has now been ratified.
After much wrangling, the document demands that the location is derived using methods that are considered 'technically feasible.' In other words, Cell ID. It draws back from defining a specific accuracy as has happened in the US but it does at least get Europe started on the route to deploying emergency location information systems.
Johan Othelius, area vice president, Location Based Services EMEA, Openwave welcomed the development and remarked that, "Worries about the technology and its capabilities have created confusion and forced timings and implementation to be put back...Getting some information is better than nothing and to add specific accuracy requirements on top would have been too much at this time."
According to research results presented by the UK regulator Oftel to the Coordination Group on Access to Location Information for Emergency Services at the end of 2001, 60% of all mobile phone callers to the emergency services are unable to give their exact location.
The European Union further states that over 50% of the 80 million bone fide emergency calls made in Europe are from mobile phones. Given that mobile penetration rates have continued to rise, particularly amongst children, the need for some form of independent location indentification mechanism can only be more pressing.
Indeed, the EU's own research indicates that making the location of a mobile caller available to the emergency services could lead to an additional 5000 lives being saved which correlates to financial savings of over â‚-5billion a year in medical and social costs.
Operators will need to install a location gateway (if they haven't already) to support this vital but non-money-making service. However, according to Othelius there are revenue opportun-ities attached.
"Operators are looking at wholesale type opportunities for location information. To do this you have to build a layer between the gateway and the applications, such as Openwave's Location Studio, which protects the user who has to give permission for their location to be sold on." Another possible opportunity Othelius identifies is as a marketing tool. Emergency use is often cited as the primary reason for buying a mobile phone and, Othelius stated, "By improving support for the emergency services in Europe, a 5-7% increase in penetration is possible and this goes straight to the bottom line."