Aiming to revolutionize the 911 emergency call market, Halifax-based Eli Technologies is in discussions with three countries and some of the world’s largest companies about the release of its platform in the next nine months.
The company has developed technology that allows emergency responders to pinpoint the origin of a 911 call sent on a cell phone, allowing first responders to know exactly where they have to go. Eli also believes the platform will be a key ingredient in the coming development of smart cities.
Eli is working with Sweden’s emergency call operator to finalize an agreement to roll out its technology across the country, likely early in 2020. The company is in talks about similar deals with Romania and Kuwait. This spring, 12 companies – including IBM, Apple, Amazon, Bosch and Ericsson – contacted Eli about being resellers of the product and/or serving other roles. And four of these companies have broached the possibility of making a strategic investment in Eli.
“If you look at the response we have got in the last 90 days since our media launch, it proves we have something that people want, and are willing to pay for,” said CEO Peter Woodford in an interview Friday. “The market is massive and there is no competition.”
Woodford said 911 systems (or their equivalents in other countries) operate off switchers developed in the 1970s that are not designed for mobile phones. But about 80 percent of 911 calls today come from cell phones, and the current GPS-based system can only tell responders the approximate location of the caller to within 50 metres and it provides no information on units in highrise buildings or indoor locations.
The Eli platform takes its reading from the wifi systems surrounding the caller rather than GPS. That means the responders in an urban setting know instantly not only the street address but also the apartment number of the caller’s position. They can locate the caller more quickly, which could save lives. Eli’s system also works in rural locations.
“The problem that we solve is that most of the mobile locations for 911 today are absolutely unreliable,” said Woodford. “We’ve developed a way to give landline equivalency to mobile.”
With a deep background in Voice over Internet Protocols, Woodford came up with the idea two years ago, and began talking to potential clients and partners around the world. Last November, Eli launched a major beta test at Kista, a Swedish smart city that bills itself as the second-largest tech hub in the world.
Eli and Kista established the Kista 112 Development Centre, so called because 112 is the emergency phone number on continental Europe. That test proved that the Eli system works in a high-density urban environment, and drew the attention of the countries and companies that Eli is now in talks with.
Woodford added that the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. has set out the criteria for updating the American 911 system. The new system must verify addresses (including apartment numbers), be able to work off existing cell phones, and have its own IP platform. He said Eli meets all these criteria.
Woodford believes new infrastructures for emergency calls are only the beginning of the Eli story. There is a global movement toward smart cities, in which municipalities improve services by analyzing data and applying machine learning to the provision of services. The Eli platform can give greater precision in location services other than technology, he said, which can help with the advancement of smart cities.
With a nine-member team (three of whom are in Sweden), Woodford is now aiming to close deals with Sweden and the other countries, as well as the blue-chip corporations interested in becoming resellers. He expects the first Eli system will be live – likely in Sweden – in 2020.
Since its inception, Eli has raised $2.4 million, almost all of it from Nova Scotian angels. Woodford is now working on raising an additional $1 million. He said that money should see the company through its initial roll-out until it can negotiate a major strategic investment and produce revenue.