Dial West for Emergency Services

West is entering new territory as it drives headlong into emergency response systems. In a statement released yesterday, West announced plans to acquire IPC System’s Command System segment, Positron Public Safety Systems, for $167 million. The segment, which was acquired by IPC just last year, will be folded into West’s Intrado operation when the deal closes before the end of the year.

The acquisition represents a major expansion of West’s hand into emergency systems. West, which has historically built a reputation as a proactive player in the home agent solutions, debt collection, and speech automation markets, is seen as solidifying a position within the emergency response market with this move. As Peter Ryan, an analyst for Datamonitor, suggests, “You can’t just get into this industry. It takes years to build up a reputation, to build up such a client base. West really looks like they’ve picked up a nice niche opportunity for themselves.”

Intrado currently provides 9-1-1 systems to many communications carriers, and, to date, has handled more than 2 billion 9-1-1 emergency response calls. The Montreal based Positron, symbiotically, provides fully-integrated software for call-handling and end-to-end dispatching solutions. Its applications range in use from automated vehicle location to computer-aided dispatching, mapping, and radio communications capabilities for coordinating emergency response, and have been deployed in more than 3,000 public safety answering points. Positron has, moreover, sold more than 2,000 of its VIPER (Voice-Over-IP Emergency Response) systems worldwide.

Both Intrado and Positron expect that the acquisition will help smooth what they see as some of the wrinkles in the emergency response industry, which is currently serviced by many entities. The companies believe that a multiplicity of vendors contributing to the same systems create complications for public safety workers. Darrin Reilly, Positron’s president, asserts, “By working as a unified team, we can provide the public safety community with enhanced services and critical information about a 9-1-1 call that will save more lives.”

Intrado and Positron anticipate the acquisition will facilitate the joint creation of new premises-based response solutions, like 9-1-1 text-messaging, which would allow users in emergency situations to communicate with public safety answering points via text-message.

For the time being, Omaha, Neb.-based West has no plans to move the management of Positron Public Safety Systems, which currently has its offices and two-thirds of its employees in Canada.

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