emergency services

Texting to 9-1-1: Examining the Design and Limitations of SMS

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jan 27, 2011
Texting to 9-1-1: Examining the Design and Limitations of SMS data sheet 1629 Views
4G Americas
Publication Date: 
Oct 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This analysis focuses on SMS as a means to contact 9-1-1 emergency services, with a goal to provide a view of the capabilities, limitations, threats and vulnerabilities of this means of communications. There are millions of SMS messages sent each day and there is a perception that SMS is reliable; however, SMS was never designed as a reliable means for life-saving critical communications. SMS was designed to be secondary to voice calls and was never designed to provide the full and robust communications citizens have come to expect with voice calls. SMS has significant limitations and shortcomings that do not make SMS suitable for emergency communications, especially under life threatening conditions. In conclusion, there are significant limitations inherent in the design of the current Short Message Services which make it impractical to be used for emergency service. However, the industry is fully aware that it is important to address the requirements for people with disabilities as soon as possible. To that end, it is recommended that techniques which are readily available today, such as silent 9-1-1 calls, along with accelerating research and development into emerging technologies such as TTY Emulation, be undertaken while the next generation systems are being designed.