Where Are We… With Next Generation 112?

EENA's Amy Leete is exploring the state of play in the public safety sector, with a particular focus this week on Next Generation 112.
Where Are We… With Next Generation 112?
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Next Generation 112  just a buzzword, or the new era of emergency communications and response? Currently, most emergency services are only reachable by voice telephone calls. Yet all over the world, citizens expect to be able to contact emergency services with technologies they use to communicate every day – including text and video calling. Next Generation 112 (NG112) is about integrating these new technologies into emergency services, so that they can receive not just voice, but location information, real-time text, photos, video calls and other data.

Inevitably, this requires a significant upgrade and overhaul of current emergency communications systems. Where are countries across the world in terms of their NG112 journey, what does EU legislation require of Member States, what is EENA doing on NG112, and where are we heading? Find it all out below.

Why Modernise?

In brief, modernising will provide a vastly more efficient emergency response. When call-takers receive more data to inform decision-making, responses are faster and more specialised. Advanced Mobile Location, for example, allows emergency services to pinpoint an accurate location of the incident quickly, allowing for a faster emergency response. A video call to 112 in the event of a building fire can provide valuable additional information on the nature and extent of the fire, preparing emergency services for potential hazards.

NG112 will also allow more access for all citizens, including people with disabilities who may have been excluded with voice-only systems. It will also allow for additional staffing benefits – remote working for emergency call takers when needed, for example.

The new delegated regulation supplementing the European Electronic Communications Code (Directive 2018/1972) has also set requirements for EU Member States that relate to NG112.

EU Legislation: What Do EU Member States Need to Do?

The new delegated regulation supplementing Article 109 of the EECC has stated that in order to foster the adoption of IP-based emergency communications (Next Generation 112), the European Commission requires member states to produce within nine months a roadmap detailing their country’s plan for PSAPs to be able to: “receive, answer and process emergency communications through packet-switched technology.” The deadline for this roadmap is December 5th, 2023.

Note that this requirement is not for NG112 architecture to be implemented by December 5th 2023, but for a roadmap – a plan – to upgrade PSAPs to be able to receive and process emergency communications originating on packet-switched services. There is no specific legislative requirement for an NG112 architecture to be implemented. However, processing emergency communications such as video calling, real time text and total conversation requires an underlying IP-based architecture. Moreover, that architecture needs to continue to be able to support emergency communications originating on legacy circuit-switched networks during the transition phase to all-IP. The NG112 architecture can fulfil these requirements and is therefore the de-facto technical solution for ensuring regulatory compliance.

Where Are We with Implementation?

In 2013, EENA provided a long-term definition of NG112 for emergency services in the document ‘Next Generation 112: Long Term Definition’.

In 2019, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) published TS 103 479: a definition of core elements of NG112 architecture, for network independent access to emergency services which enables multimedia communications (text, video, together with location or additional data) which is not possible on the current phone-based system.

In April 2019, EENA launched its NG112 project, which ended in June 2020. The project aimed to test and deploy the NG112 architecture in different countries, focusing on demonstrating its use in real-life environments. Three consortia were selected, covering five different countries: Austria, Italy, Denmark, Turkey and Croatia. More information on the project and access to the project reports can be found here.

For NG112 architecture to be effective, it needs to be standardised and interoperable. EENA works with ETSI to examine and validate the interoperability and conformity of NG112 solutions using different scenarios and test cases through the ETSI Plugtests. The NG112 Plugtests provide the unique opportunity for all stakeholders to trial the components along the full chain of NG112 emergency response. The last Plugtest – the 2023 edition – occurred in February. All information on the Plugtests can be found on our 2023 Plugtests page.

What are the concerns?

It is clear that the NG112 architecture will bring significant benefits, particularly in terms of operational costs and the ability to provide a more efficient and resilient emergency service. However, the modernisation of emergency communications requires a perfect balance of technology and human empathy.

With the status of deployment different in every country, it can be extremely difficult to keep track. EENA has several resources that provide that information. Members of EENA have exclusive access to our annual PSAP report, which addresses the NG112 situation in 58 countries – including when and how PSAPs are upgrading their technology. You can read the abstract here. At the EENA 2023 conference, the NG112 Progress Update – which you can watch here – features three detailed examples of NG112 journeys.

With the development of video communication, concerns have been raised about staff wellbeing. It is already well known that call-takers and PSAP employees have to face traumatic situations on a daily basis, currently via phone call. The impact of video calls on PSAP employees is already being explored by experts. Of course, there are significant benefits to receiving video communication – find out more in our Using Live Videos for Emergency Rescue – but the impact on staff wellbeing is discussed in our EENA 2023 Conference session here.

Where Can I Learn More?

EENA provides a number of resources on how emergency services can begin to implement NG112 architecture, and examples of already implemented NG112 communications from around the world.

Our documents focusing on NG112 include NG112 and the new Emergency Services Networks landscape Challenges and opportunities, the Role of Geographic Information Systems in Next Generation 112: Moving from current state 112 to future state NG112, Security and Privacy Issues in NG112, NG112 Transition models, and NG112 Implementation Steps (accompanying webinar here).

Our blogs, too, address the obstacles and challenges of adopting NG112 architecture – including NG112 with Accessibility in Mind and Tomorrow’s Ambulance – Technology: Ally or Enemy?

While in Europe, regulatory obligations and technology evolution are the key drivers, in North America, where the NG market is more mature, attention is turning to resolving some more complex issues such as ESInet interconnection and cybersecurity. In this session from the EENA 2023 Conference, you can hear about the latest next generation developments from across the pond.

What are the Next Steps?

With EU Member States having to submit a roadmap for IP-based communications by the end of the year, the transition to NG112 is a priority for PSAPs around the world. EENA will remain at the forefront of the transition.

You can contact EENA if you have questions or need more information about NG112. EENA can give you concrete examples of the value of NG112 and put you in contact with stakeholders having already implemented Next Generation emergency networks in various countries across the world. EENA also offers a NG112 Education Programme in order to support efforts to lay down national plans. The programme is aimed at educating key stakeholders in your country on NG112 and can be co-organised with you (i.e. national public authorities/emergency services) and delivered by EENA staff members online or in person in the form of a workshop. For more information on this programme, feel free to contact cl@eena.org or fmb@eena.org.

To keep up to date with EENA blogs and resources, visit the website here

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