November 29, 2012

An “App” Enabled by WebRTC

This is cross posted from EnThinnai Blog. Please post your comment at the original location. Thanks.

Some of us strongly believe that WebRTC will usher in a wide variety of innovative services, features and capabilities. At the same time, there are many skeptics dampen the (irrational?) exuberance. I am sure both sides will present their view points during this week’s WebRTC Conference & Expo. In this post, I would like to commemorate that conference by outlining one possible application.

As a background, we are all familiar with emergency telephone service. You know the one where you dial 911? Or is it 112? Or is it 999? On top of that, you may have to dial a different number depending on the nature of emergency – one number for Police, another Medical and yet another for Fire. How will a roaming mobile user to know which number to use?

Then there are occasions when one would like to reach the local police for non-emergency assistance, like a fender-bender. But one may not know the contact information. Indeed, I do not know the phone number of my local police station, let alone a location I am just passing through.

Finally, many communities have non-emergency community information service, sometimes called 3-1-1 service, based on the dial code used in US. Other countries have similar services, but use different access numbers.

I propose an application that can be used in these scenarios.

A user who would like to contact Police or a government agency sends an HTTP request to the app provider. That request will contain needed information like the nature of query, location of the user (as derived from the device) and other incidental information. Then the app provider can use these to locate the specific agency that has jurisdiction and can redirect the HTTP request to that agency. From there, the agency and the user can communicate using the services of WebRTC.

There are advantages in using this scheme. A roaming user does not have to know how to reach the local agency. If the request is for medical emergency, the request can carry the location (URL?) from where medial data can be retrieved. Of course this requires authentication and authorization processes, which can be easily done using multiple redirection of HTTP requests.

It should be noted that the basic requirement is that the app provider have a universal database of emergency and other government agencies for any given location. This may not be such an onerous task. For example, SeeClickFix does it for 311 in many communities.

Posted by aswath at November 29, 2012 11:21 AM
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