Magazine / Emergency & Crisis Management Mar 18, 2024 9:00:00 AM

Real-Time-Text (RTT) in PSAPs: all you need to know

The European Electronic Communications Code has expanded the definition of “emergency calls” to include “emergency communications”, ensuring that access to 112 services is available through every communication channel. This improvement is especially beneficial to people with disabilities. Real-Time Text (RTT) is a crucial element of this transformation. By 2027, all mobile devices, networks, and PSAPs will be required to support this technology.

But what is RTT, and how will it revolutionize emergency services?

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RTT: an instant change in emergency communications

Real-Time Text (RTT) is a method of transmitting messages that allows each character to be sent instantly as it is typed. Unlike SMS or other messaging services, there is no need to hit the 'send' button to transmit the message. This means that the recipient can read the message as it is being typed, without having to wait for the sender to finish composing the message. RTT is especially useful in emergency communication situations where time is of the essence and every second counts.

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Real-time text (RTT) can be provided through either basic cellular network services or apps. In both cases, an internet (IP) connection is required.

  • Basic cellular network. If RTT is available on the basic cellular network, you can activate it on your smartphone in the device settings. This functionality can be used without having to download additional apps or access specific web pages.

  • Third-party apps. If RTT is only accessible via internet services, you must download a dedicated application (Over The Top - OTT - application) or access a specific web page to use it. The application or web page will provide an intuitive interface to allow users to communicate in real time during emergencies.

To ensure compatibility with the standard protocols used on cellular networks and integrate with the systems in use at Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), developers of these applications must make themselves compatible with these protocols.

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The 5 key benefits of RTT

RTT offers several benefits that go beyond simple communication between the PSAP and the citizen. Here are the 5 key advantages of RTT that make it an innovative solution:

  1. Real-time, two-way communication. RTT allows both parties involved in a call to exchange text in real-time. This feature not only improves efficiency but also enables smooth and direct communication, which is crucial in emergencies.

  2. Flexibility in characters and symbols. RTT offers a wide range of characters, symbols, and alphabets in multiple languages, allowing callers to express themselves in a richer and more detailed manner. This enhances the versatility of communication.

  3. Integration of voice and text. Users can combine voice and text in a call, according to their specific preferences and needs. In critical situations, RTT provides written details about the incident, facilitating a more accurate assessment by the operators and ensuring timely dispatch of help.

  4. Maximum accessibility. The RTT (Real-Time Text) system is designed to be accessible to everyone, including citizens with hearing and speech disabilities. It enables the effective handling of emergency calls, even in the absence of sign language knowledge on the part of PSAP operators. Additionally, RTT overcomes language barriers, facilitating effective communication between individuals who speak different languages.

  5. Integration with advanced services. RTT can integrate with advanced services such as real-time localization and file sharing through OTT services, further enhancing communication possibilities. This integration provides contextual information and enriches the overall interaction experience.

In summary, RTT is a dynamic and efficient solution that improves emergency communications. It enables a more timely response and provides operators with the necessary tools to manage critical situations effectively.

The requirements for implementing RTT

Real-Time Text (RTT) is a means of communication that is comparable to voice and video calls. It allows the transmission of messages during an emergency call. Unlike SMS and other messaging platforms, where each message exists independently, RTT persists for the entire duration of the communication. To initiate an RTT session with an associated emergency call, you can follow the standard rules of cellular networks or take advantage of the new mechanisms introduced by NG112 technology. These mechanisms allow an RTT session to be inserted into an ESInet, which has advanced call routing rules.

RTT native integration

RTT integrates seamlessly with these new technologies, becoming an essential component of them. Unlike SMS, which can be difficult to route effectively, the combination of NG112 and RTT offers greater flexibility in response, especially for those who cannot communicate their emergency by voice. In essence, RTT complements the architecture of the new Next Generation technologies, helping to improve the management of emergency communications in situations where voice may not be a viable option.

RTT adoption in European PSAPs

The presence of Real-Time Text (RTT) technology in PSAPs across Europe varies significantly depending on the country, as its adoption is closely related to local policies, regulations, and technological infrastructures. Currently, several European countries have either implemented or are actively working on implementing RTT systems in their PSAPs. The purpose of this is to optimize emergency call handling and improve accessibility for people with hearing or speech disabilities.

Although RTT has been introduced in several European countries, its adoption is only mandatory in some national jurisdictions. For instance, countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Sweden have included RTT as a requirement in their national legislation. In other countries, RTT has been introduced even though it is not legally binding. This can be found in some regions of Belgium (Flanders), Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Switzerland, where RTT has been implemented in OTT mode to enhance efficiency and accessibility in emergency services.

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The obligation to make RTT accessible by 2027 is a significant step towards promoting inclusiveness and strengthening emergency services in an increasingly digital age. In this context, it is essential to pursue the development of standardized RTT and integrate it into existing communication channels. The goal is to ensure that every individual can make an emergency call via RTT, wherever they are in the world, with the same reliability as normal emergency calls.

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