As the use of mobile phones has grown throughout the world, the number of emergency calls made from those phones has exploded. In the United States alone, more than 240 million emergency calls are made each year. And today’s mobile phones have the ability to provide emergency dispatch services, called Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), with important information that they can transmit to call responders. This realisation struck Amir Elichai, co-founder and CEO of Carbyne.
He had just been robbed and made a call to local emergency services. “The call taker needed to ask a lot of questions like, what is my name, where I was, what I saw in front of me and more. I thought, how strange that in the 21st century it takes so long to get help in an emergency. When you call for an Uber or order a pizza, they can automatically see your location through your phone. So why are emergency services not the same?” This was the question that prompted Elichai and partner Alex Dizengof to develop Carbyne’s solution.
Historically, PSAPs have often not been able to get precise location information from mobile callers. When the person calling is injured and not able to speak or give the proper information, PSAPs had to “ping” that person’s phone to get an approximate location. While the location of the cell site closest to the emergency caller may provide a general indication of where the call is coming from, that information is not always specific enough for rescue personnel to deliver assistance quickly.
“According to the FCC, 10,000 people lose their lives every year because first responders are not able to get accurate location information from emergency calls,” said Dizengof. “We knew that we had to do something about this; something that would revolutionise this process and save lives.”
Using Vonage APIs to Power Next-Generation Emergency Responses
The first solution that Carbyne developed was application-based, but the Carbyne team soon realised that, for emergency purposes, it wasn’t realistic for all people to download an app to make an emergency call. They soon shifted to a web-based solution that could be deployed by any PSAP.
According to Oded Gal, Carbyne product manager, “We developed software for the PSAP site so that call takers would be able to receive advanced information of any type from a mobile data source. We transitioned from a mobile app to a web app solution.” Now, when an emergency call comes in, the PSAP sends out a link to the caller’s mobile device. The link opens a one-time session via the web browser without the need for a pre-installed application. That’s where Vonage APIs come into play.
The link that is shared by the PSAP connects the caller to the emergency center by using either the Vonage SMS or Messages API. A message with a link is automatically sent to the caller’s device. Tapping the link will allow the caller to send accurate device-based location and video to the PSAP, as well as enabling 2-way chat with the call-taker who answered the call.
At first, Carbyne used the Vonage SMS API for authentication on their mobile application. However, in some countries, including the US, people do not have access to SMS when on an emergency call. When looking for a way around this issue, Carbyne realised that they could use certain social chat apps for communications.