Modern security with a human touch
Providing peace of mind on campus
Noonlight began as a mobile app helping to protect college students as they crossed campus. If a student ever felt unsafe, they could open Noonlight and press and hold an on-screen button. Once they reached a safe location, they could release the button and enter a 4-digit PIN.
But if in danger, they could release the button, never enter a PIN, and police would be sent to their GPS location.
Noonlight differentiated themselves from other safety applications in a few ways:
- The first was a friendly, live, Noonlight dispatcher who could comfort a distressed user. This conversation could be managed via text if a user wished to remain discreet, or phone call.
- The second was the ability for the Noonlight dispatcher to contact public safety on behalf of the user in case of an emergency. This feature lead Noonlight to Bandwidth.
Matching location to public safety
In the very early days, when Noonlight’s dispatchers determined that a user needed a first responder they would consult a database of approximately 6,000 public safety agencies to determine which one to contact using the listed “10-digit” telephone number, known as an “admin or alarm line”. The admin line is used to contact public safety when you cannot directly dial using the digits 911.
While efficient and typical for alarm or other “monitoring” companies, calls on an admin line arrive anonymously and may not receive the same priority as a direct 911 call, adding potential delays to response. Additionally, such calls do not make use of dedicated emergency telecom facilities, and do not display the user’s current location on the emergency call taker’s screen.
After meeting with Bandwidth, Noonlight identified an opportunity to provide a better service to their users and potentially get help to users faster, particularly in confirmed emergencies.
Direct access through Bandwidth’s Emergency Calling API
In addition to national telephony voice coverage, long distance, international calling and toll-free calling, Bandwidth has custom-built special network connectivity to directly access public safety across the nation’s dedicated emergency facilities.
Therefore, Bandwidth could augment the method used by Noonlight to contact public safety, not only by directly connecting to dedicated emergency lines nationwide, but also by passing from Noonlight the specific address and other critical information about the distressed user and immediately displaying that information to the 911 operator.
Through this Bandwidth-powered 911 interconnection, Noonlight calls could arrive on the dedicated emergency trunk, with the Noonlight company name prominently displayed, as well as the user’s live location and supplemental information to give responders detailed live event data.
There was, however, another challenge.
The Noonlight service is fully in the cloud, without the physical equipment generally required to connect to Bandwidth. Each Noonlight dispatcher logged into their “seat” via WebRTC, allowing them to be located, theoretically, anywhere in North America. While a typical Bandwidth customer would normally own a VoIP switch housed in a data center at a known location and connect to Bandwidth across a Session Border Control (SBC), this was not possible with Noonlight.
Bandwidth had already anticipated the needs of fully-virtual clients by launching a new product, our Emergency Calling API. Rather than requiring direct circuit-based connectivity, or even SIP trunk connectivity, Bandwidth simply supplied the virtual client with a special toll-free “SOS” number on the Bandwidth network.
When the client sends a potential emergency call to this special SOS telephone number, the Bandwidth Emergency Calling API initiates a web services transaction that allows the client to reroute the emergency call on Bandwidth’s dedicated emergency network and control what data is ultimately displayed onto the emergency call taker’s screen. And, via the Emergency Calling API, the client can steer the call based on location (address or GPS latitude-longitude) and control other fields, such as username and user telephone number, that appear before the emergency call taker.
For Noonlight, this meant the ability to get data displayed to the 911 operator with zero work or technology upgrades at the PSAP, the potential to accelerate response, and full control of what was displayed on the call taker’s screen. Not only would the Emergency Calling API allow for full emergency call control through an API, but all Noonlight infrastructure remained cloud-based.
Bandwidth and Noonlight continue to innovate together
Since partnering with Bandwidth, Noonlight has seen their brand and innovative service become even more familiar to public safety, thanks to their company name being consistently displayed to 911 operators nationwide. Noonlight was the first Bandwidth customer to sign up for our Emergency Calling API, and they remain the largest volume user of it to this day.
Additionally, Bandwidth introduced Noonlight to the regulatory and technology departments within the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) organization; NENA has launched a working group to study over-the-top (OTT) applications like Noonlight’s and improve the industry’s overall understanding of OTT applications and any impacts to public safety. Noonlight is now a foundational member of this nascent working group alongside Bandwidth and other long-standing NENA member organizations.
More recently, Noonlight has demonstrated an ability to deliver “mini URI” links within certain standard fields of the emergency call taker’s display via Bandwidth’s Emergency Calling API. These mini URIs can be used to access live video of an emergency event that is in progress without requiring major upgrades to existing equipment at the 911 call center. This enables Noonlight to deliver video from a user’s smartphone directly to legacy public safety systems, and is just one more way they’re improving emergency response.