In April of 2013, 8×8, Inc. was awarded a patent with the weighty title “Systems, Methods, Devices and Arrangements for Emergency Call Services Using Non-traditional Endpoint Devices.” This patent, in layman’s terms, allows for non-traditional devices to relay more information to emergency responders. This patent is in keeping with the 8×8’s track record of keeping their subscribers’ safety as a high priority.
In 2004, 8×8 became the first major VoIP provider to offer enhanced 911 services to their home and office customers. At the time, they partnered with Level(3) to establish a database, having customers submit their name and address into the database. Information from this database would then be relayed to the 911 operator.
Other companies at the time were dragging their heels on the E-911 issue, and one company, Vonage, was even sued by the Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot in 2005 for not making it clear that its subscribers had to opt in to their 911 services.
With enhanced 911, emergency operators receive information about the caller, such as their location, on their screen when the call is answered. This information is especially important in cases where the person in need cannot speak aloud. Much of the news about enhanced 911 has been regarding cellular phones, which by definition are not fixed to one location, but VoIP has also been a concern. VoIP relies on IP addresses, not physical addresses, which necessitates a new way of relaying information to operators.
Today, there are new concerns to be addressed. One major advantage of VoIP is that you can access it from anywhere you have an Internet connection, including hotels, and internet hotspots, and even using your smartphone’s data network. In cases of emergency, this can work against VoIP, because the caller may not have an easily traceable geographic location. In earlier incarnations of E-911, this was solved by having the subscriber enter information about where the phone was located, usually in a home or office; now VoIP is increasingly becoming more mobile.
8×8 has come one step closer to solving this problem with their recent patent. The patent, 8×8’s 87th to be awarded to them, outlines a variety of methods to determine a caller’s location by creating a location database with data from endpoint devices. Endpoint devices include servers, computers, switches, nodes, smartphones, and tablets. Location data is then tracked using the data from these endpoints, and when the caller dials 911, this information is transmitted. This way, the 911 operators have the most accurate information available. Location information automatically pops up on the screen of the 911 operator when the call is answered.
8×8 has had other successes in the realm of public safety. The Environmental Protection Agency has a hotline to answer questions about the Clean Water Act. This hotline is operated under contract to a company called Outreach Process Partners, a firm based in Annapolis, MD. When OPP first got the contract in 2012, they turned to 8×8 for their call system. OPP took advantage of the Jump Start program, which is designed to deploy solutions in as little as three days, and ordered four additional training sessions. Within the three week deadline they were given, OPP was able to record their own voicemail and greetings, give callers the option of leaving a voicemail twenty four hours a day, and set up the 8×8 ticketing system. During their first month alone, they processed 916 calls and 120 voicemails. 8×8’s hosted PBX solution also made it easy to transfer calls to outside experts when needed.
As technology progresses, it’s important to maintain customer safety. In the early days of VoIP, certain companies would take a passive stance on safety. 8×8 has been a leader in safety, pushing ahead with their research to make locating 911 calls as accurate as technology allows.