The challenge: Build a better enterprise communications application
Founded in 2012 and inspired to action by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, Punch Technologies wanted to change how enterprises communicate during critical emergencies. Punch launched their PunchAlert platform initially to provide two-way communication and mass notifications to K-12 schools. However, in order to complete a robust, full-featured safety solution, they saw the need to provide emergency calling capabilities directly into the PunchAlert application.
Says Punch Technologies, CEO, Greg Arzt, “We didn’t know much about 911 at first, but we understood technology and intuitively knew there had to be a better way to help organizations such as schools and other organizations respond during emergencies.”
Application developers interested in embedding emergency calling into their software usually encounter a variety of initial stumbling blocks. The first is that mobile device operating systems restrict access by 3rd-party apps to the device’s native dialer. This is to protect both the user and public safety from telephony denial of service attacks (TDoS), where infected smartphones could be programmed to call 911, potentially flooding our nation’s 911 network infrastructure and disrupting emergency operations.
Another issue centers around an increasingly mobile workforce where users are moving freely around buildings and campuses to collaborate. Today’s mobile location solutions often rely on cell tower location when the call is initially sent to public safety, which can be a significant distance away from the caller. Inaccuracies can slow emergency response times as dispatchers communicate with callers to determine their precise location. Furthermore, wireless 911 misroutes—when a call is sent to the wrong jurisdiction and must be manually transferred to another—are .
Finally, when emergencies occur, most callers will reach for the nearest device—usually their smartphone—to place the call, but if the caller uses the native dialer, that action takes place without anyone in the enterprise aware that a 911 call has been made and from which location.
The main problem that Punch recognized and needed to address was precise caller location. They wanted to provide a safer user experience by connecting users with public safety while providing accurate location information and enabling notifications.
The Bandwidth 911 solution
“Bandwidth has been the critical missing piece of the puzzle for us”
—Greg Artz, PunchAlert CEO
Punch Technologies partnered with Bandwidth, a nationwide 911 service provider with interconnectivity into public safety across the U.S. and Canada. At the time of a 911 call, the PunchAlert app captures the location of the caller.
If the caller is within the enterprise, such as connected to an internal network, Bandwidth relies on the pre-provisioned address for the enterprise which is typically the most accurate. However, when the user is outside the enterprise, the latitude/longitude (X,Y) of the callers mobile device is captured by the app and provided to Bandwidth, who then performs a reverse geo-coding process to determine the civic address format needed by public safety.
“We are able to leverage our geofencing and beacon technologies to pinpoint real-time location at the time of the 911 call. Bandwidth is able to accept this dynamic information and use it to route emergency calls to the appropriate PSAP, while presenting the caller name, callback number and location information to the PSAP for response,” says Arzt.
PunchAlert chose Bandwidth over other providers because of their deep expertise and experience in 911, as well as their nationwide, reliable, carrier-grade network with access to public safety. Arzt says, “Bandwidth has been the critical missing piece of the puzzle for us, and has allowed us to extend our solution anywhere in the country. Their experts helped to guide us through industry best practices so that our solutions would factor in both the user experience as well as public safety.”
Next generation emergency calling and notifications
By partnering with Bandwidth, PunchAlert has been able to blend the power of real-time communications with emergency calling and place a future-proof solution into the hands of a variety of enterprises including schools, healthcare organizations, community centers, and places of worship.
Recently, Punch Technologies made PunchAlerts’ feature set available to partners who need to leverage these same notification and emergency calling features into their apps, devices, and software—without the need to implement and maintain an expensive telephony infrastructure.
More recently, Punch Technologies launched a new offering, 911+ Connect, which helps their partners embed emergency calling capabilities into software applications, telematics, and IoT devices. 911+ Connect relies on either user-provided location information or device-based location. It also delivers advanced safety features such as emergency contact notifications for designated friends and family. Software manufacturers and device manufacturers can protect their users via 911+ Connect without the need to purchase or maintain expensive telephony infrastructure.