MADISON, Conn., 19 Jan. 2007. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday that the nation's largest city would be developing a system for accepting cell-phone photos from citizens in its 911 and 311 call centers.
PowerPhone, a leader in 911 training and technology, unveiled the first system for delivering cell-phone photos from 911 callers right to call handlers in August of 2006 at the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials Annual Conference.
The new technology, called Incident Linked Multimedia (ILM), is part of PowerPhone's Total Response Computer Aided Call Handling software.
"Technology is changing the rules when it comes to emergency response," says Chris Salafia, PowerPhone's president and CEO. "Citizens are now the eyes and ears for our 911 operators, and camera-phone photos are going to be an important part of improving the level of service 911 systems offer to the public."
In a recent study conducted by a leading European mobile communications retailer in conjunction with the London School of Economics, over 50 percent of respondents said they would use their camera phone to record evidence of a crime and 47 percent said they would take pictures of a crime in progress.
While some public safety agencies have started accepting cell phone photos to a generic e-mail address, PowerPhone's ILM system is the first that integrates these photos directly into a 911 call record.
PowerPhone's ILM system works like this: a citizen calls from his cell phone to report an emergency or suspicious activity -- for example, a suspicious person dumping chemicals in a subway station. The caller dials 911 to report the sighting and says he can send a picture of the man to help identify him. The call handler sends a text message to the caller's cell phone requesting the photo. The caller then replies to this message with the photo attached. PowerPhone's ILM system stores the photo in an incident record for easy reference. The image can be forwarded to responders who are on their way to the scene.
"ILM empowers the 9-1-1 call handler while emergency responders are on their way to the scene," says Salafia. "This technology gives call handlers another tool that can help them save lives and improve safety and security in communities."
ILM also supports the transmission of video images from equipped camera phones. In addition to uses for 911 center, ILM technology can help non-emergency call centers -- such as the 311 lines that are being installed in cities across the U.S.
According to InfoTrends, a market research firm on digital imaging, more than 50 percent of the 741 million cell phones in use worldwide are camera phones. This number is expected to grow to 87 percent of phones in use by 2010.