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Automatic Location Identification

(also ALI)

Automatic Location Identification definition

Automatic Location Identification is a system used for determining the physical location of a device in real-time. Automatic Location Identification is a critical component of emergency response systems, helping first responders and emergency services rapidly assist callers distress.

See also: GPS jamming, location intelligence

How Automatic Location Identification works

Automatic Location Identification systems maintain databases for location information (like physical addresses or geographic coordinates) associated with phone numbers. They also frequently integrate with Geographic Information System databases and mapping software to further narrow down the caller’s coordinates.

When a person calls an emergency number (such as 911 in the United States), the call is routed to an emergency call center. A person designated as the Automatic Location controller queries the database for the caller’s location information — if available, it will be immediately displayed on the dispatcher’s screen.

The effectiveness of Automatic Location Identification systems greatly depends on the caller's location and network. For example, pinpointing a caller's location indoors (especially in large buildings) and rural areas with few cell towers can be challenging.

Location information available

  • Phase I location: This is typically the approximate location of the cell tower or cell site that is handling the call. It offers a rough estimate of the caller's location.
  • Phase II location: A more precise location that can include latitude and longitude coordinates, often derived from GPS technology.