The new incoming Apple’s iPhone iOS 12 will have a new feature that will automatically share the location of the phone when users call 911 in case of emergencies.
In this day, several smartphones have a feature that picks your location accurately that they can send a car to the exact spot that you are standing on a busy street. The same phones can map a morning run in the woods or guide you in the streets of a new city or even navigate inside an airport.
However, an emergency call to 911 using the same phone cannot help the responders pick the exact location where they ought to send an ambulance, police car or even fire truck. This is despite the fact that, the difference in distances can be the difference between life and death.
Developers at Apple are determined to solve this problem. iOS 12 which is expected later this year features an update that is able to calculate a caller’s location based on data collected from WiFi access points, GPS and cellular towers nearby. Hence, the phone will send instant and precise information regarding location to a RapidSOS dispatcher. The dispatcher will then send will then forward the caller’s coordinates to local emergency response centers.
In order for the new feature to work seamlessly, Apple has partnered with the startup RapidSOS. The startup specializes in sharing a cell phone’s location data to systems used by emergency response departments across the U.S. The startup offers its integration as a free software update to existing 911 dispatch systems. The partnership has a potential of saving about 10,000 lives according to federal regulator estimates.
The main challenge so far has not been identifying a caller’s location but relaying that information to a fragmented and aging 911 system which was primarily built for landlines. Apple launched its HELO system in 2015. The system is a Hybridized Emergency Location feature developed as part of Apple’s solution to the problem.
The 911 system that is in use currently was designed in an era when everyone used landlines. In that case, a call operator could easily pinpoint a caller’s location. In today’s world, more than 80% of 911 calls are made via cell phones. Cell phone carriers share location estimates with emergency dispatchers, however, sometimes the information is not very accurate.
Apple has assured its users on its firm stance on user privacy. The company stressed that user location data cannot be used for any non-emergency purposes. Only 911 will have access to a user’s location during an emergency call.