Friday 17 June 2011

Don't wait for an emergency before you call Aculab - NENA 2011 booth 324

Tomorrow will see the team from Aculab flying to the National Emergency Number Association – NENA 2011 – conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center in the appropriately named ‘City of Lakes’. That is, unpronounceable Icelandic volcanoes permitting – well, you never know when an emergency situation will arise. Although I guess you wouldn’t call 9-1-1 to get out of that kind of disaster.
So, barring accidents – touch wood and all that – we’ll be arriving at the Lindbergh terminal in Minneapolis-Saint Paul International on Saturday evening, before heading downtown to our hotel near the Convention Center.

The NENA 2011 event takes place between June 18th and 23rd in downtown Minneapolis and is the public safety industry’s premier annual conference and tradeshow. The primary theme of this year’s event is the next generation transformation of the 9-1-1 system, in which, incidentally, Aculab’s GroomerII gateway plays a key role.

A major milestone in this revolution is the newly (officially as of noon eastern time yesterday, June 16th) approved i3 document, known by its technical name of ‘NENA Technical Standard Document 08-003, Detailed Functional and Interface Standards for the NENA i3 Solution’.

In line with the motto of “anytime, anywhere, any device,” the i3 document presents an end-state architectural vision for next generation 9-1-1. The i3 solution describes how networks and devices will eventually work together to enable all manner of communications – voice, text, picture, data, etc. – to be used in emergency situations between citizens and first responders.

Interestingly, in talking about alternative methods of communication, it seems that Twitter is now the fourth emergency service. Last weekend’s Scotland on Sunday newspaper carried a story about a Glasgow civil servant who helped save a woman's life after she sent a suicidal ‘tweet’. Although the woman was a complete stranger who lived several hundred miles away, this modern day Samaritan dialled 9-9-9 (the equivalent of 9-1-1 in the UK) and, using Google maps on his smartphone, was able to give the police a location for the tweeter. The woman was later taken to hospital and, according to the newspaper, was believed to be making a full recovery. How’s that for next generation emergency services.

NENA’s next generation i3 standard sets out a detailed architecture for key elements of NG9-1-1 systems, such as Legacy Network Gateways (LNG). A crucial component of an LNG is the protocol interface between wired and wireless, SS7-based, carrier networks and the i3 defined, SIP-based, emergency services Internet (ESInet). That’s where GroomerII fits right in, by the way, assisting in the transition of public safety networks from TDM to IP.

If, like thousands of your public safety peers, you’re attending NENA, we’d like to extend our invitation to visit Aculab at booth 324. If you can tear yourself away from the multitude of educational and policy sessions, the technology showcase in the exhibit hall, which involves more than 120 companies, is where we’ll be located. Don’t forget, it takes place only on Monday and Tuesday (20th and 21st). We’d love to see you there. Drop by and find out how Aculab is helping to change the face of emergency communications.

Regarding Minneapolis, you might be surprised to discover that the city, straddling the legendary Mississippi, is the largest in Minnesota, but that it’s not the state’s capital. That honour goes to Saint Paul, which adjoins Minneapolis and which fact gives rise to the appellation ‘Twin Cities’. The resultant metropolitan conflagration is commonly referred to as Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

Of course, the state and the city are associated with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem, which we all enjoyed in school. Hiawatha and Minnehaha both feature in the names of many of the city’s landmarks and streets.
“In the land of the Dacotahs,
Where the Falls of Minnehaha…
Laugh and leap into the valley.”

It looks like the organisers of NENA 2011 did well to avoid a clash with the Minneapolis Beer Festival on June 4th, but maybe that depends upon your point of view. Nevertheless, there seems to be no shortage of things to do outside the NENA conference hours over the weekend. One event that’s particularly noticeable is the Stone Arch Festival of the Arts; see

Whether or not a certain ‘formerly named’ artiste turns up, there are a few worthy local performers for whom to look out. Check out the ‘Cities 97’ and ‘City Pages’ stages for singer/songwriter Niki Becker, the folksy Dustin Thomas, ‘Farewell Milwaukee’ or the neighbourhood vintage-pop duo, ‘The Parlour Suite’. There’s sure to be something for most everyone’s musical tastes.

As the exhibition closes on Tuesday, you might hear us singing – not “Crawling from the wreckage” to dial 9-1-1, but “calling from the distance, crying from afar, fare thee well, O Minnehaha!”

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