Apple on Monday announced that an iPhone running iOS 12, which will be available later this year, will automatically share a caller’s precise location data with first responders during a 911 call in the United States. The feature should help reduce emergency response times.
Approximately 80 percent of 911 calls today come from mobile devices, but outdated, landline-era infrastructure often makes it difficult for 911 centers to quickly and accurately obtain a mobile caller’s location. To address this challenge, Apple launched HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) in 2015, which estimates a mobile 911 caller’s location using cell towers and on-device data sources like GPS and WiFi Access Points.
Apple today announced it will also use emergency technology company RapidSOS’s Internet Protocol-based data pipeline to quickly and securely share HELO location data with 911 centers, improving response time when lives and property are at risk. RapidSOS’s system will deliver the emergency location data of iOS users by integrating with many 911 centers’ existing software, which rely on industry-standard protocols.
Apple notes the location data will only be used for emergency purposes, and the information will only be available to a responding dispatch center during a 911 call.
“Communities rely on 911 centers in an emergency, and we believe they should have the best available technology at their disposal,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “When every moment counts, these tools will help first responders reach our customers when they most need assistance.”
The current 911 emergency calling system was developed by AT&T in the 1960s and was intended for use with landline phones, which have a fixed address. However, over 80% of 911 calls today come from mobile devices, allowing at best, an estimated emergency location based on cell towers.
The FCC is requiring carriers to locate callers to within 50 meters on 80% of 911 calls by 2021. Apple says that iOS devices location services can easily provide this information, even in dense urban environments. The new iOS 12 feature takes advantage of the feature to offer the required feature now.
The RapidSOS system will be integrated with existing 911 center software, helping to solve the issues involved in more precisely detecting an emergency caller’s location. The technology is part of a broader initiative called “Next Generation 911.”