Emergency Services Architecture for Location Hiding

I have been working on IP-based emergency services for many years also. For a while it looked like the standardization activities would finally come to an end and the industry could deploy the stuff they had been working on in various SDOs.

Of course I was naive to think that it would be that easy.

Let us go back a few years.

While we were in the middle of defining how IP-based communication systems would contact emergency services we heard concerns from telecommunication operators, in particular Deutsche Telekom, that they cannot share location of the user with his or her own device (for privacy and security reasons). This lead to the work on ‘location hiding‘ in the IETF ECRIT working group and to the publication of RFC 6444 (http://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/rfc6444/). Consequently, a solution was standardized (and is still work in progress) called ‘rough location’, see http://tools.ietf.org/id/draft-ietf-ecrit-rough-loc.

Problem solved?

You may think. Early 2011, about 4 years after the first location hiding draft was published, the European Commission (EC) comes along and published  mandate 493. This mandate says:


The lack of commonly agreed specifications and standards in support of the processing of caller location information in electronic communications networks for the purpose of the location enhanced emergency call service in Europe is a barrier for implementing future proof solutions which fulfill the requirements of article 26 of the amended Directive 2002/22/EC. The objective of this Mandate is to stimulate further standardization work in this field to support harmonized European solutions also with regard to cost effective implementations.

The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) provided a response to that mandate, which you can find here: http://www.iab.org/documents/correspondence-reports-documents/2011-2/letter-to-the-european-commission-on-global-interoperability-in-emergency-services/.

Unfortunately, the IAB interaction with the EC had no effect.

It turned out that this mandate meant that there is no European standard for the above-mentioned location hiding concept. This is certainly true since most companies are now working in global organizations since they want to serve a global market. This shouldn’t be a surprise when you work on Internet technology.

In any case, a new standards group in ETSI was created to work on this topic: the M493 group. This group is supposed to develop an emergency services architecture in fulfillment of the location hiding requirement — the mandate phrases it differently, of course. The interesting thing about ETSI is that most of the key stakeholders needed for the work on this topic aren’t actually involved (in particular over-the-top VoIP and application service providers). Of course they could all join ETSI and pay their membership fees to become part of the discussion but so far they haven’t.

To provide feedback into that process James Winterbottom and myself had decided to write an Internet draft for an architecture that we believe could meet their requirements and, at the same time, re-uses some of the prior standardization work.

You can find the document here:
http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-winterbottom-ecrit-priv-loc-00

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