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Houston expert: New location-based tech is en route to saving lives

New location technology will help get emergency responders closer to 911 callers if they are unable to describe their location. Photo courtesy of AT&T

“911, what’s your location?”

It’s a phrase we’ve heard hundreds of times on TV shows and movies. In real life though, have you ever considered the possibility that this question — one that can mean the difference between life and death — may be hard for the caller to answer? In an emergency, you may not be able to speak. If you’re in a car accident, you may not know where you are. In a disaster, your surroundings may be confusing.

That’s where a new location-based routing feature we call “Locate Before Route” comes in. This summer, AT&T, in collaboration with Intrado, rolled out a first-of-its-kind 911 upgrade across the country that will make it easier for emergency personnel to find and send help to wireless callers.

Roughly 80 percent of 911 calls today are made from cell phones. Before location-based routing, a call would ping a cell phone tower and connect to the dispatch center closest to that tower. But here’s the thing: that cell tower could be up to 10 miles away. Imagine needing help in Deer Park but the dispatcher thinking you may be in Baytown. You could even be in a different county, making it difficult for dispatchers to pinpoint exactly where the call is calling from.

Here’s how it works:

Instead of pinging the closest cell tower, the GPS in your phone connects with the closest 911 dispatch center, meaning emergency operators can locate you within about 55 yards of your position. That’s about half a football field.

This kind of accuracy means public safety can respond faster, especially in situations when a 911 wireless caller doesn’t know or can’t disclose their location.

AT&T is the first wireless carrier to launch location-based routing for all 911 call centers nationwide, whether they’re operating on older technology or NextGen 911. The best part: AT&T customers across the country automatically have access to this service – no action is necessary.

AT&T’s commitment to public safety is longstanding. Following the events of September 11th, we worked to create FirstNet, – the only nationwide communications platform dedicated to public safety and first responders. With nationwide location-based 911 call routing, we are providing our customers with the quickest, most accurate way to call emergency personnel for help when it’s most needed.

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Luis Silva is vice president and general manager at AT&T.

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Here's what Houston research news dominated this year on InnovationMap. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note: As 2022 comes to a close, InnovationMap is looking back at the year's top stories in Houston innovation. In many cases, innovative startups originate from meticulous research deep within institutions. This past year, InnovationMap featured stories on these research institutions — from their breakthrough innovations to funding fueling it all. Here are five Houston research-focused articles that stood out to readers this year — be sure to click through to read the full story.


Texas nonprofit cancer research funder doles out millions to health professionals moving to Houston

These cancer research professionals just got fresh funding from a statewide organization. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Thanks in part to multimillion-dollar grants from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, two top-flight cancer researchers are taking key positions at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Pavan Reddy and Dr. Michael Taylor each recently received a grant of $6 million from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

Reddy is leaving his position as chief of hematology-oncology and deputy director at the University of Michigan’s Rogel Cancer Center to become director of the Baylor College of Medicine’s Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. C. Kent Osborne stepped down as the center’s director in 2020; Dr. Helen Heslop has been the interim director. Continue reading.

Rice University deploys grant funding to 9 innovative Houston research projects

Nine research projects at Rice University have been granted $25,000 to advance their innovative solutions. Photo courtesy of Rice

Over a dozen Houston researchers wrapped up 2021 with the news of fresh funding thanks to an initiative and investment fund from Rice University.

The Technology Development Fund is a part of the university’s Creative Ventures initiative, which has awarded more than $4 million in grants since its inception in 2016. Rice's Office of Technology Transfer orchestrated the $25,000 grants across nine projects. Submissions were accepted through October and the winners were announced a few weeks ago. Continue reading.

Houston researchers create unprecedented solar energy technology that improves on efficiency

Two researchers out of the University of Houston have ideated a way to efficiently harvest carbon-free energy 24 hours a day. Photo via Getty Images

Two Houstonians have developed a new system of harvesting solar energy more efficiently.

Bo Zhao, the Kalsi Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston, along with his doctoral student Sina Jafari Ghalekohneh, have created a technology that theoretically allows solar energy to be harvested to the thermodynamic limit, which is the absolute maximum rate sunlight can be converted into electricity, as reported in a September article for Physical Review Applied.

Traditional solar thermophotovoltaics (STPVs), or the engines used to extract electrical power from thermal radiation, run at an efficiency limit of 85.4 percent, according to a statement from UH. Zhao and Ghalekohneh's system was able to reach a rate of 93.3 percent, also known as the Landsberg Limit. Continue reading.

Texas A&M receives $10M to create cybersecurity research program

Texas A&M University has announced a new cybersecurity-focused initiative. Photo via tamu.edu

Texas A&M University has launched an institute for research and education regarding cybersecurity.

The Texas A&M Global Cyber Research Institute is a collaboration between the university and a Texas A&M University System engineering research agency, the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station. The research agency and Texas A&M are also home to the Texas A&M Cybersecurity Center.

The institute is funded by $10 million in gifts from former Texas A&M student Ray Rothrock, a venture capitalist and cybersecurity expert, and other donors. Continue reading.

Houston research organization doles out $28M in grants to innovators across Texas

Houston-based Welch Foundation has awarded almost $28 million in chemical research grants throughout Texas this year. Photo via Getty Images

Chemical researchers at seven institutions in the Houston area are receiving nearly $12.9 million grants from the Houston-based Welch Foundation.

In the Houston area, 43 grants are going to seven institutions:

  • Baylor College of Medicine
  • Rice University
  • Texas A&M University
  • Texas A&M University Health Science Center
  • University of Houston
  • University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
  • University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston

The Welch Foundation is awarding almost $28 million in chemical research grants throughout Texas this year. The money will be allocated over a three-year period. Continue reading.

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