We'd Love To Connect You To 911, But It's Patented

from the your-expected-wait-time-is... dept

A company announced today that it’s been granted a patent covering some aspect of E911 calls from GSM mobile phones, something having to do with locating a caller and relaying that information to the emergency call center. Why should a company be able to patent something with such blatant public-safety implications? The US government has been pushing for mobile operators to implement E911 for some time, and it’s been perenially held up by any number of reasons: governmental buffoonery, carrier foot-dragging, less than impressive technology and, of course, the all-time favorite, local governments not preparing their 911 call centers to support E911, but rather spending the money designated for it on ballpoint pens, winter boots and dry cleaning bills Signs point that the December 31 deadline for it to be implemented will fly right by unheeded as well. So if the government is really serious about getting E911 implemented and/or saving lives — something of which there’s been little indication over the past several years — it would be removing barriers to its adoption, not letting companies raise new barriers by patenting technology needed for it.

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Comments on “We'd Love To Connect You To 911, But It's Patented”

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Rob Henderson says:

I'm not seeing the problem...

I can’t see any reason why someone should be denied a patent on any ‘public safety’ device, be it a new nozzle for firehoses or an electronic/software widget for E911. Telephone providers and municipalities are free to buy it if they desire, or purchase something from a competitor that uses other technology.
If a patent holder damages the public by failing to provide the product for sale or forbids licensing to others, then you have a case for compulsory licensing.
What company would ever create a novel product for a specific purpose and not patent it?
Of course, everything I have said assumes this is truly a ‘product’ patent. If there is some language in that patent that grants protection to a large class of methods, then I would agree with your original post.

dorpus says:

Maybe it's only in California?

Yeah, I remember California’s 911 service being abysmal, taking several minutes to talk to someone. Haven’t had problems in Michigan, 911 responds right away, it’s answered by people who live in the community, speak English, know what they’re talking about.

But yeah, maybe Californians are making themselves upset over “government inefficiency” or whatever, so they deprive the government of funds and make it more inefficient.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

It’s called capatilism, and it’s what makes this country work. This will force competitors to devise alternative methods of transmitting this data. Then you have to market the idea, which will necissitate the new method to be somewhat better than the old method if anyone hopes to sell the new technology. But for the time being since 911 operators cant retrieve that information from my cell phone anyway, I see it as a boost of service. There may be a licensing fee attached, but then there’s a fee for everything you do on a cell phone. Everyone who buys a cell phone and reads the contract already knows and accepts that. You can decline to use the phone in case of an emergency and let someone your with die, but I can think of better ways to save $1.99 than that.

Rob Henderson says:

A deeper read

In reading some of the patent details, it seems pretty straightforward. Normally, each tower has a particular 911 center it forwards calls to. This is a problem when you have a tower near a district boundary. A caller in district B has her cell signal handled by the tower across the line in district A. The call is forwarded to the 911 center in district A. Delay ensues as they figure out that her location is outside their jurisdiction.
The patent basically says that the software in the tower will HOLD the call, and not connect to the 911 center, until it is able to identify the exact location of the caller. When it has this information, it transfers the call to the appropriate 911 center. If some (small) preset time elapses and the location information is unavailable, then the call is transfered to the default center.
This does seem like something of a departure from the standard “connect that 911 call as fast as possible” methodology. I don’t know, however, if it is truly a non-obvious invention.

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