Should the FCC be more careful when communicating the value of the emergency Text-to-911 service?



US mobile networks to launch emergency SMS

Julius Genachowski has posted on Linkedin about the FCC’s plans for US mobile subscribers to be able to communicate with 911 emergency services via SMS. Check out the FCC’s Text-to-911 website for more info/details.

After only 20 years SMS has become the most powerful engagement method of communication yet invented, so I think this is a great development and a very forward thinking initiative of the FCC – in 2009 eSMS proved to be an overnight success in the UK – that shows their commitment to supporting mHealth innovation and “Next-Generation 911” – I can’t wait for Always Best Connected Emergency Mobile Video Calling! – but I’m not sure that they’re doing the best job of communicating the opportunity and I think they’ve unfortunately chosen a really bad use case in this press release:

Text-to-911: Harnessing Technology to Keep Americans Safer… …Imagine you are witnessing a crime or facing a life-threatening situation where making a voice call to 911 could further endanger your safety. You need to reach 911 emergency responders, but an audible call could alert a would-be assailant. What can you do to summon help fast? You reach for your cell phone and send an instant – and silent – text message to 911 responders who quickly arrive to help you and remove you from harm’s way

With all the opportunities that emergency SMS will open up for Americans in need of emergency assistance it amazes me that the FCC has chosen to talk about a criminal activity. I wonder if it’s intentional to use a criminal use case in an attempt to use fear to help sell this?

Why not talk about the value this service can provide to the 10+ million Americans who are deaf/hard of hearing? Or how about the M2M connected innovation this can support eg. mobile connected smoke alarms that will save lives (there are three times as many residential building fires as there are recorded shootings in the USA and we know that connected fire alarms save lives).

To help eliminate consumer confusion while this capability is being phased-in, the carriers have committed to provide an automatic “bounce back” text message to notify consumers if their attempt to reach 911 via text message was unsuccessful because the service is not yet available in their area

Won’t this bounce back SMS potentially undermine the crime reporting use case that the press release makes e.g. the SMS notification could also “alert a would-be assailant“?

The actions we have taken this week seek to require that all wireless carriers, as well as providers of certain Internet-based text messaging applications, enable their customers to send text messages to 911 where PSAPs are prepared to receive such messages

I wonder how the FCC will decide which text messaging applications will be governed by these new regulations, I hope it’s not going to stem SMS innovation in the USA.

What do you think would be the most effective way for the FCC to communicate the value of eSMS?

About 3G Doctor

The Corporate Blog of 3G Doctor
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