How Siri Could Improve the 911 Emergency System

Siri understands a wide range of voice commands already, and the technology is bound to improve when third-party app integration is eventually implemented.

Now that everyone has had time to play with Siri on the iPhone 4S, interesting ideas are continuing to surface about how Siri could revolutionize certain markets. Siri has the potential to help drastically improve the 911 system in the US with location-aware and intelligent emergency alerts…

The US emergency infrastructure is painfully antiquated. Particularly, the 911 number has no way of knowing your location or information. You have to call the number with a telephone and explain your situation clearly and as quickly possible—not exactly optimal for someone that’s in cardiac arrest.

John Wilson, a health policy analyst writing for GigaOM, believes that Siri combined with the Next Generation 911 project has the ability “to change not just our 911 system, but also to be one of the biggest consumer-facing technologies in health care that we’ve seen in decades.”

He cites the US Department of Transportation’s Next Generation 9-1-1 research project. The initiative aims to completely revamp the 911 system in American with the advances made in wireless technology over the last 40 years, including location awareness.

Here’s what Wilson outlines as a possibility for Siri in the future:

“Once the word “emergency” is spoken to Siri, a range of beneficial activity could commence. First, the phone could video call 911 utilizing Skype or a similar VoIP video service. This would allow first responders to have a much better context of the emergency at hand. Armed with a live video and audio feed of the event, visual cues could assist the first responders as they deconstruct the problem. Second, Siri could send the GPS location of the caller.

Third, an app could automatically transmit critical information to the nearest hospital. First Choice Healthcare already has an app that gathers this information – primary care physician, current medications and any drug allergies – for a patient heading to the ER. Depending on the patient’s physician, it’s possible that the patient’s entire electronic health record (EHR) loaded into the app (or otherwise shared with authorized medical personnel) as well.

Lastly, Siri could send a text or email to the chosen next of kin, letting them know that an emergency has transpired and their family member is being transported to the closest hospital (with the address included).”

Siri can’t even dial 911 right now, which is a real shame. Wilson notes that Apple hasn’t created a way of proving that a call is legitimate or not, and the US is very serious about prank emergency calls. A better 911 system needs to be put in place, and technology like Siri should make every aspect of our lives—including emergency situations—easier.

Health care is also a market that’s ripe for new innovations, and Siri would make everyday medical activities easier to complete. Once integrated with medical equipment, Siri could setup video conferences with a physician. Imagine an elderly person being able to say, “I need to see my doctor” after tapping the home button of the iPhone. A secure video conference call is established with the desired medical institution and professionals could help walk through situations in person, all through the iPhone’s two cameras on the other end. There’s also the obvious benefit of having intelligent reminders for taking pills, etc.

The US Health Care system needs a lot of work—that’s no secret. With a revamp of the 911 system and adoption of user-friendly technologies like Siri, there could be a brighter future ahead for the medical community and citizens alike.

How do you think Siri could improve the American health care and emergency medical systems? Share your ideas in the comments below!