Everyday people go missing. Not too many years ago, it could take 10 or even 15 hours for Norwegian search and rescue teams to locate and rescue a skier who went missing in the mountains, or a hiker missing in the forest. Today, a mission is usually completed in one or two hours, thanks to new technology and improved collaboration.
Just like in the movies, specially trained operators at Telia Norway can triangulate a missing person’s phone to find them. But unlike the movies, it’s not just to push a button to get the accurate position.
“In real life you need competence, good tools and the right access to be able to do the triangulation. It’s an advanced and responsible job — and also very rewarding”, says Terje Lilleåsen, Senior Manager at Service Operations Center.
In the event of an emergency, Norwegian authorities have the right to request access of the missing person’s mobile phone. At Telia’s Search and Rescue team we receive their request and by searching the person’s phone number in our systems, we can see if the phone is turned on and active, and what cell tower it’s connected to. Then we triangulate the phone’s signals to pinpoint its location.
With our systems and our 5G network, we have reduced the search area from several square kilometers to a one-hundred-meter radius. For even more accuracy, a rescue helicopter can be sent out with a temporary cell tower base station onboard.
When it’s near the phone, the phone will connect to the base station, and we monitor how the signal differs as the helicopter flies in circles over the area. This way, we can decide the phone’s position with an accuracy of 0 to 20 meters.
Terje has been with Telia for more than two decades, mainly working in sales, but for the last seven years he has been the manager of the Service Operations Center in Oslo. He is also one of the team members who rotates the night and weekend shifts, where they are on standby 24/7 for search and rescue missions.
”It’s the same excitement every time I start my weekend shift, since I never know what’s going to happen. There are always new cases coming up, where I’m challenged and get to use all the knowledge and experience that I have built up during my career. That’s quite rare — and truly motivating — after 25 years in a company and industry”, Terje says.
The other search and rescue operators also have a lot of telecom experience, many of them with a background in both customer service and more technical roles. Because, in fact, locating a missing person’s phone is similar to the process of locating the phone of a person experiencing poor connection.
One of the team members with such a background is Erica Earnshaw. She enjoys the variety and excitement in her job.
”No day is the same. Suddenly I am in a search and rescue mission with national interest, where I play a leading part in finding the missing person — that’s really exciting. Using our technology and competence to save lives is great”, Erica says.
We’re Telia. And we’re making better outdoor life happen with 5G and advanced triangulation.