By: Lauren Saccone
Technology these days seems to be primarily about entertainment. Many people use their phones almost exclusively to play games, update Facebook, and take pictures. Considering that many phones now have the capabilities of computers, it’s easy to forget their initial and primary use is for communication. Luckily, some phone companies haven’t ignored this fact, and are exploring innovative ways to help people communicate.
Verizon is at the forefront of a new technology that will allow people to call for help without opening their mouths. The company is developing a texting service that will enable people to contact 911, even if they’re unable to speak. The SMS technology is expected to arrive within the next 12 months, making Verizon the first wireless carrier to offer this service.
The program will prove to be an invaluable resource for people who may be unable to call 911 – particularly those in a situation where a phone call could put them in danger, or who are otherwise unable to place a phone call. But the real benefits are to those who are deaf or hard of hearing. This new system guarantees that even in dangerous situations, those who cannot call 911 will be able to reach emergency services.
“Our company is continuing its long-standing commitment to address the needs of public safety and our customers by offering another way to get help in an emergency, by using wireless technology,” said Marjorie Hsu, Vice President of technology for Verizon Wireless, in a statement.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has expressed public support for this venture from Verizon, and they are not alone in their praise. Major cities across the country are clamoring for the service, which they believe would improve safety and communication with emergency services.
The program is expected to go into effect over the first six months of 2013, first being implemented in larger cities. Verizon plans to expand the service to cover the entire nation by the second half of 2013.
There’s no way to determine how successful Verizon’s program will be on a large scale, however. Tests of the system were done in relatively small areas, and most of the emergencies texted in could have been handled by a standard phone call. Emergency services could find themselves overwhelmed by mass texting, or dealing with technical difficulties that don’t arise from the standard phone system.
Despite these concerns, the FCC is eager to push technology further when it comes to guaranteeing people’s safety. Verizon’s innovative program isn’t the only ongoing plan for emergency situations. The FCC has been working on a plan for over a year that would upgrade the nation’s emergency system to accept text and video messages as well as phone calls. The FCC has also proposed that Congress approve a plan that would allow people to text location details with GPS software in emergency situations.
Most of these developments are still in the embryonic stage, but if Verizon’s efforts prove successful, they could inspire other companies to focus their attentions on using phones to communicate, instead of just developing new games.
[Pic via Flickr - rockinfree]