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Dec 22, 2021 9:52:00 AM

How Skyhook Supports Emergency Positioning

Posted by Grace Bettinson

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Emergency responders depend on mobile phone user location when answering an emergency call, and the accuracy of that location can be crucial in reaching a caller in time. Accurate mobile user location can be used in deciding which emergency center receives the initial call, which resources are dispatched, and planning ahead for where to bring the person placing the call if necessary.

The Problem:

As of March 2021, a rapidly dwindling 36.7% of households in America had landlines, compared to a 62.5% of individuals who only use a mobile phone. Acquiring accurate location for landline phones is relatively simple as the physical location is tied to where the phone is installed. Nowadays, mobile phones allow people to call from anywhere at any time. That means that the address the phone is registered at and that the user may live at is not necessarily where they are making the call from.

During an emergency call, individuals can state their location but often times responders will rely on the detected location of the phones they are calling from. Cellular wireless operators determine mobile phone location-based on network information such as cellular tower location and trilateration, or Time Difference of Arrival (TDOA) between towers to locate and track location in an emergency. 
Advancements in location technology have made it possible for mobile handsets to provide precise location in hard to detect areas. Smartphones initially used device-based location, primarily relying on GNSS signals to determine the phone location. The problem with this approach is that GNSS doesn’t work well indoors or in dense urban areas as signals could be blocked by weather conditions and buildings, providing inaccurate location results.

The Solution

Device-based hybrid (DBH) positioning utilizes a combination of Wi-Fi, GNSS, and cellular signals to provide reliable location for mobile phones in any environment. This solution helps to solve the problem of being unable to reliably locate devices in hard-to-reach areas for emergency positioning. Recently, DBH positioning has become available not only on smartphones running Android or iOS but also in feature phones running alternate operating systems such as KaiOS, AoSP, or others.

How Skyhook Can Help 

Device-based hybrid positioning is available through the integration of Skyhook’s Precision Location solution within the mobile devices baseband chipset (modem) or operating system. Skyhook’s solution is based on a global Wi-Fi and Cellular Crowd-Sourced database and cloud positioning system. This type of integration allows devices with critical elements they need to meet emergency requirements under any operating system.
Skyhook is known as the pioneer of the modern-day standard for mobile device positioning, and our device-based hybrid positioning algorithm uses the best combination of Wi-Fi & cell or GNSS signals to precisely calculate the device location. With over 23 years of technical expertise, and partnerships with industry leaders like KaiOS, Kyocera, and Qualcomm, Skyhook is a great choice for emergency positioning. 
Skyhook has partnered with major chipset and OS vendors to provide: 
  • Stand-alone DBH fix (without any cooperation or support from wireless network) 
  • Global coverage 
  • Emergency positioning even when GNSS/Wi-Fi receivers are turned-off 
  • Respect for user privacy by using location information only for emergency reporting
Read our ‘Emergency Positioning Requirements white paper’ to learn about the new positioning requirements being implemented in the U.S., Europe, and Canada. 
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