Apple Emergency Phone Feature

The iOS 12 update will allow emergency responders in the United States to know your exact location when you call 911. The change will provide faster and more accurate information to help reduce emergency response times, according to Apple.

To achieve this, Apple is turning to emergency technology company RapidSOS’s Internet Protocol-based data pipeline to share HELO location data with 911 centers. 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 Wi-Fi Access Points.

For security and privacy, the user data will not be accessible for any non-emergency purpose.

According to Apple CEO Tim Cook:

Communities rely on 911 centers in an emergency, and we believe they should have the best available technology at their disposal. When every moment counts, these tools will help first responders reach our customers when they most need assistance.

By 2021, all U.S. carriers must be able to locate callers to within 50 meters at least 80 percent of the time. Apple says iOS already exceeds this requirement. Thanks to iOS 12 and RapidSOS integration, these benefits will be available to local 911 centers.

As RapidSOS CEO, Michael Martin explains:

911 telecommunicators do extraordinary work managing millions of emergencies with little more than a voice connection. We are excited to work with Apple to provide first responders a new path for accurate, device-based caller location using transformative Next Generation 911 technology.

The 911 system in the United States was first established in the 1960s and naturally uses older technology.

When a call is placed via a wireless phone, it first goes to the carrier. From there, the wireless company routes the voice information and the cell tower address to a 911 center. Unfortunately, the current system to locate the call could be off by more than 50 to 300 meters, depending on the location.

Earlier this year, the iOS 11.3 update added support for Advanced Mobile Location (AML), a feature that automatically sends your current geographical location when making a call to emergency call. AML is primarily supported in the European Union.

First announced on June 4, iOS 12 arrives alongside tvOS 12, watchOS 5, and macOS Mojave this fall.

Image: Apple