Emil Lozanov – Technical Director at KONTRAX since 2007, certified Project Manager and certified ITIL expert, with over 20 years experience in the field of information technologies, guest at the studio of Darik Radio, speaking about IT, follows an extract from the interview.
What is the purpose of the National Emergency Call System 112?
The establishment of the National Emergency Call System (NECS) is purposed to provide a unified number for all emergency calls – First Aid, Police, Civil Protection, Fire Safety. Thus the need of remembering several telephone numbers for different occasions falls away, but also the visitors in the country, those coming from the European Union, have the possibility to receive help with one call to a number that is already standardized and well known. We all know that in case of emergent aid people are usually under the influence of emotions and sometimes it is hard to remember a phone number or to decide which number to call first. Not less by importance is the fact that with this number we ensure the help for the foreign visitors and guests, which number increases every year. After implementation of NECS 112 the number of accidents with foreign citizens is significantly reduced.
Important is also that the system aims to perform integration between the other emergency call systems.
How does the system operate?
The system is divided into 6 territorial centres (Sofia, Kardzhali, Burgas, Varna, Ruse, and Montana). NECS 112 backbone is the telephone system and the software application used for calls registration and allocation. The application allows also monitoring the status of each call and improves the control on teams work. The geographical information system is used. The software and the database thereto are installed on servers and disk arrays, as the main server centre is based in Sofia. The system allows automatic identification of the telephone number, determination of localization, and entry of input data about the caller. The system may induce repeated calls for the same incident and the places, where they come from, filtering of false and malicious calls. It allows redirection to the telephones of Police 166, Fire Brigade 166, First Aid150, Chief Directorate National Agency on Civil Protection 088 199, Bulgarian Red Cross 088 1470.
Would share some more information about system establishment?
KONTRAX has installed the system with excellence and within very short terms. The main software is ELS, produced by Siemens, current name Unify. Its support is provided by another company successor of Siemens Enterprise, as the latter withdraw. The project is quite huge; 4 regional call centres are established, one backup centre in Ruse and the main centre is in Sofia. 293 new work places are open. The implementation includes delivery and installation of the entire hardware, system integration, installation of database, as well as localization and deployment of the software application. The teams to operate the system have gone through training. The system started operation in September 2008, and it is fully operational from the very beginning. The short time for system commissioning helped for avoiding serious fines, which the European Union would have imposed to Bulgaria due to the lack of such integrated system.
What difficulties and problems arise for the emergency call system?
The system is implemented in 2008 and as of May 2015 its support is not awarded to external contractor. Actually, the system was supported for not more than two years. We should note that it is a live system, i.e. it includes GIS data, data about the phone subscribers, and other information that need to be updated from time to time. Otherwise, some of the system functions will not operate properly. For example – many people have and use navigation software on their phones. Of you do not update your navigation software it will not show the latest changes on roads. The same applies for the NECS 112.
In addition, all the equipment ages and wears down. If this equipment is not regularly maintained, it will start to fail. This is a general rule that if overlooked will result in easily foreseen problems. As it is with our motor car o if we do not take care about it, problems and failures occur and finally the car is out of operation.
However, the maintenance needs to be performed by the manufacturer or specialists trained and certified by the manufacturer. As far as I know, in the last years the NECS 112 is supported by the support teams of the Ministry of Interior. But as I have already mentioned, this maintenance, no matter how careful and extensive it is, cannot replace the maintenance provided by the system manufacturer.
These are only part of the reasons that cause problems for the NECS 112 operation. My opinion is that even of the system has not stopped entirely, 100%, failures of more and more of its components are not a smaller problem. We need to remember that NECS 122 is extremely important life-saving system and its failure or loss of functionality that seems not so important, may have serious consequences.
What are Kontrax duties in regard to NECS 122 currently?
KONTRAX has no contract obligations for system support since May 2015. For the entire maintenance period we have fully fulfilled our obligations and there was not even one interruption. Currently, it is by our goodwill that we support the system hardware, in order to prevent its total failure, though it is just a matter of time. For example, for the last several months, on request we have performed a few repairs on servers and disk arrays. Repairs are done against relatively low prices considering the financial reality. These repairs help to prevent system interruption, but of course, they are not enough for the complete maintenance; they are just temporary support for the hardware.
I have already mentioned that the system is not maintained by certified specialists for the last two years. And, also in the period between 2011 and 2013, there was one more year without maintenance.
And here comes the reasonable conclusion that even some random repairs are made, the risks of system total failure are increasing every day. To our surprise, no urgent measures are undertaken.
What should be done for improving the situation?
The system owner should assign its full maintenance to certified teams as soon as possible. I am afraid, that due to lack of maintenance by now, the costs related to system restoration back to excellent technical conditions will be higher than the usual ones. It should be noted that the update of GIS system and data from telecom operators used for caller’s localization, should have been done, as the localization is a key and life saving functionality. It is very important to provide maintenance by the company - manufacturer and that of the database.
If no urgent measures for maintenance restoration and modernization are undertaken, the problems could be very serious, as we are speaking about people in danger and often about life danger.
Usually the explanation is that the companies have required many things, that they place conditions – but it is not true, we provide maintenance without conditions and free of charge, because we are socially responsible and take care, but if the matter is not solved with the foreign companies, owners of the software and database, which do not receive any payment, the result will be catastrophic.
What funds are needed for the maintenance of that type of system?
Lack of maintenance due to lack of funds or inability to receive offers from more than one candidate, or due to the seemingly high price, should not be allowed, especially for that type of systems.
The usual approach globally is that when such a system is to be established, the plans include not only financial resources for its implementation, but also funds for its maintenance, and further development. The amount of these funds should be about 20% of system value, for a year of maintenance and development. Thus, the owner of the system shall guarantee protection of its investment, and will be sure to use the latest technologies right after their launching on the global market. We cannot plan to change the system on every 5 years if we have made significant investment; far more effective is to further develop the existing system.
We should note that similar systems are offered by only a few manufacturers around the world. This is not a popular user product and clients usually are state or big corporations. Every manufacturer strives to implement functionality that will make its system competitive.
The regular research about the latest capacities of these systems by the experts of the system owner will bring also a clear vision for its future development and use.
One of the problems in Bulgaria is that the experts are really asked and given a chance to speak – they are not heard, politician, public figures are those who speak, but when it comes to professional topics, experts’ opinion need to be sought.
Is there anything else that is worth mentioning in this conversation?
In 2008 the system was one of the modern systems globally. Presently, we are discussing the fact that it could stop operation due to lack of maintenance, while the new capabilities that the technology offers are far more important and interesting. I would like to only add that the existing system may be upgraded with the use of the so called mobile application (App) that will help every user to send his/ her data, including allergies, chronic diseases, and blood group. We all already share our location using the mobile phone; that can also be integrated. Taking into account also the creation of the vehicle systems for automatic data sending in case of car accident (the so called e-call), the system should be able to receive that information. In general, new technologies provide for the quick transfer of information using various channels. Thus the use of new technologies may also make the NECS 122 accessible for disabled people.
There are many interesting possibilities when using the multimedia. Photos and video exchange with the use of mobile devices is part of our daily life. There are yet software solutions offered also for the emergency calls, where the caller may send photos and video from the incident location, may receive instruction in the form of images and video films for the purposes of providing first aid till the ambulance arrives.
In conclusion – the technologies offer more and more options and capabilities, and how to use them is a question, which best answer can be given only the experts.
Every Wednesday from 8 am to 8:30 am Darik Coffee invites KONTRAX experts to discuss topics of public importance. The company celebrates 25 years of its establishment and is amongst the leading suppliers of information and communication systems.
Today KONTRAX is a group of companies providing wide range of products and services, with over 450 specialists, performs integrated projects adapted to the specific needs of its clients, among which we can find the names of most of the large state and private organizations.