How vertical location fits in the NPSTC IoT use cases

In June 2019, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) published a working paper on use cases for IoT devices. 

The document outlines the role that IoT can play in eight emergency response scenarios – either through devices used by first responders themselves, or devices in the surrounding area which could provide first responders with data to inform operational decisions.  The idea was to guide departments and agencies as they consider IoT purchasing decisions, and inform industry about how IoT devices can assist first responders in the field.

For the most part, location was an afterthought in the NPSTC report.  Most of the use cases focus on environmental sensors and biometric components as indicators of first responder safety rather than focusing on use of location for situational awareness. 

Now that vertical location is available to first responders nationwide through NextNav’s partnerships with FirstNet (built by AT&T), Intrepid Networks, and 3AM Innovations (with more to come), we thought it would be a good idea to revisit the NPSTC IoT use cases and insert vertical location into the mix.  We’ve identified a role for vertical location in five of the eight use cases, and provided some context for each of them below.

NPSTC Use Case #2: House Fire (Basic Fire Response)

In this use case, the fire department responds to a fire in a single family home.  While the use case assumes a one-story house, homes with more than one level are just as common in neighborhoods across the United States.  (In addition, seventeen percent of all Americans live in multi-story apartment buildings and condos.)

In these cases, vertical location can improve emergency response in three ways:  by locating an E911 caller, improving on-scene operational planning, and providing real-time intelligence in the middle of an emergency operation.

First, NextNav will soon be able to identify the vertical location of an E911 caller across its nationwide service area.  If a caller is unable to speak or doesn’t know their location, this may be the only way that first responders will be able to figure out which floor they are on.  Without vertical location, first responders have to search floor by floor to find someone, wasting precious time and ultimately decreasing the quality of emergency response.

Second, NextNav’s vertical location service allows incident commanders to optimize emergency responses on-scene.  Through situational awareness apps like Intrepid Response for FirstNet or the 3AM Innovations FLORIAN system, incident commanders can see which other first responders are already on scene, including which floors of a building they’re on.  This allows them to direct their resources more efficiently and effectively.

Third, these same situational awareness apps give incident commanders the real-time intelligence they need to direct first responders around dangerous situations or provide assistance to responders in need in multi-story structures.  Even in a two-story suburban home, knowing someone’s floor level can be the difference between getting trapped and finding a way to safety.

All of these benefits would come from standard phones or tablets, most of which are equipped with the barometric sensor which is required for NextNav’s vertical location service.  Additional IoT devices such as body-worn cameras, PASS systems, and other environmental sensors could also process this data if they contain barometers.

NPSTC Use Case #3: EMS Response (Basic EMS Response)

In this use case, an EMS crew is sent to the scene of a medical emergency.  IoT sensors either generate an alert directly to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) through a Next Generation 911 (NG911) system, or provide real-time information to EMS personnel on scene.

The advantage of vertical location here is similar to the fire response use case.  Vertical location sensors tied to medical devices could alert the EMS crew to a person’s exact position within a building, saving precious time and improving emergency response outcomes. 

Vertical location data could be incorporated directly into a medical device itself, or leverage the presence of an app on the user’s phone to connect with NextNav’s vertical location system.  Through an integration into NG911 and E911 systems, first responders could find people in need without the need for active participation by the user – a critical capability when medical emergencies render them incapable of speaking or acting on their own.

NPSTC Use Case #4: Convenience Store Robbery

In this use case, police respond to an alert triggered by a convenience store employee in response to an armed robbery attempt.  While most of the IoT devices in this use case are inside the store itself, the body-worn cameras used by police officers would also provide valuable data to assist in the response.

Vertical location could play a dual role here.  First, the convenience store may be located in a multi-story building (such as a shopping center), making it difficult for police to find it quickly.  If the alert system in the store is equipped with vertical location, it could tell the response team which floor to head to.

The other role for vertical location comes in the situational awareness apps used by the police.  When multiple units arrive on scene, the incident commander can use situational awareness apps to keep track of where units are placed, where the suspect is in relation to different tactical assets, and the movement of both in relation to one another.  When multi-story buildings are involved, accurate location tracking can be the difference between apprehending the suspect and a “friendly fire” incident.

NPSTC Use Case #6: Public Safety Response in a Smart Building

In this use case, first responders act on an alert in a building equipped with IoT-enabled sensors which allow for remote access to HVAC, access control, fire suppression, and other systems.  The example use case is in a retirement community where patient tracking is also available.

Smart buildings provide even more context for vertical location data in an emergency response scenario.  When integrated with NG911, E911, and situational awareness platforms, the IoT systems in smart buildings create a holistic picture of what’s happening in a building.  Vertical location adds to that picture by adding first responders into the mix, providing incident commanders with the information they need to deploy resources effectively and efficiently.

When tracking people in need is a feature of smart building technologies, vertical location can also play a critical role in matching first responders with the people they’re looking for.  If vertical location is sent by building sensors to PSAPs as part of the 911 dispatch process, first responders will be able to find people much faster, improving emergency response outcomes.

NPSTC Use Case #7: Multi-Agency Response to a School Shooting

In this use case, a school shooting prompts a joint response from police, fire, and EMS agencies.  Incident commanders on the scene have to coordinate their actions and keep track of personnel across different agencies as they deal with a live situation.

If the school is a multi-story building, the use of vertical location in situational awareness applications can play a key role in first responder safety and effective deployment of resources. 

Tracking first responders as they move through a building can help to avoid “friendly fire” incidents and keep them away from known dangers lurking on specific floors.  A single picture of the entire response scene also helps to coordinate actions, ensuring that every officer is where they are supposed to be.

When incident commanders, PSAPs, and first responders on scene all have access to the same location data – including vertical location – it also minimizes the need for time-consuming (and noisy) radio check-ins, freeing up resources to concentrate on the task at hand.