Last Updated on Thursday, 11 November, 2021 at 9:26 am by Andre Camilleri
Most times, in case of an accident, we automatically dial 112. Looks straightforward but perhaps little thought is given to the extraordinary people and mechanisms backing it up. GO Business’ chief officer ARTHUR AZZOPARDI, whose team spearheaded the recent revamp to Malta’s emergency line talks us through the project.
What does this revamp of the nation’s main emergency response service mean for GO Business?
Providing such a service brings immense responsibility. It is not an everyday entertainment product. People’s lives are at stake and during a crises, emergency services need to respond quickly. The faster they act, the faster they can provide help – and the better the outcomes. We need to be grateful for these unsung heroes, truly wonderful people, who operate these lines, 24 hours a day. The systems and technology we have put in place, where possible with their support, vastly improves the response when it comes to saving lives.
What level of coordination does 112 require?
The 112 response system includes ambulance, civil protection and police services and is part of the national strategy to improve the efficiency and accessibility of emergency assistance. The system is a truly impressive one because it not only identifies which of the three services are required, but it also pinpoints the respective teams and even the equipment needed in the particular emergency circumstances.
Recently GO Business has been entrusted by the Ministry for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement to conduct a major overhaul of such services. Take us through the major changes.
GO had already been responsible, as a contractor, for providing the technological backup of Malta’s emergency lines, a service which only a leading and experienced telecoms operator like GO could provide. Our work mostly focused on design, deployment and support. The most crucial development was the implementation of real-time location tracking on 112 request calls which required us to install an infrastructure that enables emergency service providers to pinpoint a caller’s location, whether they are calling from a mobile or fixed-line system. We also had to establish an eCall function that could enable better data-sharing when an accident occurs and give service providers more information before they arrive on the scene thus reducing the service’s response time to just four seconds.
Which solutions were implemented to support this revamp?
The team developed and implemented two solutions that facilitate operations. The first is a unique computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system. Designed with the Civil Protection Department (CPD) and hospital services in mind, our CAD system improves response efficiency giving agents greater visibility into incidents and enabling two-way communication between an emergency vehicle and the control room. Once a call comes through on the 112 number, agents are provided with details about the location, caller and scene in the CAD. Calls can then be quickly escalated to the right emergency team, aided by AI, which suggests the right teams and equipment required for the situation at hand. All relevant information is passed to responders through devices in emergency vehicles, providing the insights they need to act as quickly and effectively as possible.
This new system is a significant shift from paper-based logging systems as we digitalised the process for every emergency department involved in the 112 upgrades.
And at the users’ end?
The new e112mt mobile app offers citizens another way to contact emergency services allowing them to call or text 112 with a single tap, making the system more accessible for people with hearing or speech impairments and offering wider benefits for citizens reporting serious incidents. The revamped app also enhances location tracking for 112 teams, using Advanced Mobile Location (AML) technology. Using data from cell towers and – with the user’s consent – the phone’s GPS, emergency services can now identify where a caller’s location is to the nearest metre.
For example, if a citizen cannot speak – perhaps due to a severe injury or being stuck in a lift – they can request emergency help via a built-in panic button. Their location is transmitted to emergency teams, who can then provide help as quickly as possible. Users can also use the app to report witnessed crimes, get general news about their area and find useful contact details in case of an emergency.
Besides the development of the technological and software requirements, what was GO’s role in the project?
Throughout implementation of the 112 upgrades, we provided support and technical expertise at every stage – from consultancy and design, to installation, commissioning and on-going maintenance and support. The company also trained its staff on the technology with the involvement of foreign experts. This entire process allowed the company to establish closer working relations with the agencies involved. Regular communication was key to making sure the system is at its most effective.
Now that the new system is in place, is there a follow-up project?
GO has now committed to not only provide ongoing maintenance to the system but to also keep improving its solutions and adding new capabilities to the 112 system. This is why we have designed our solutions to be customisable so 112 can adapt as new technologies come to market. Some improvements are already in place both in the system as well as in the processes that support it. For instance, we have introduced a mandatory certification course to make sure every agent knows how to navigate the system efficiently. And as data and feedback are constantly generated, our AI machine learning protocols are helping us understand better what Malta needs.
Finally, a message to our readers
Working behind the scenes to deliver this service made us appreciate more the incredible dedication of the people behind the 112 service. We all need to appreciate that a simple call can save a life. An extra call, not as urgent, or even a prank, could mean that a person in true need might get assistance a little too late.