Published: Tue, June 19, 2018
Tech | By Constance Martin

With iOS 12, calls to 911 will deliver life-saving location accuracy

With iOS 12, calls to 911 will deliver life-saving location accuracy

Apple is trying to solve a potentially risky emergency response infrastructure problem.

Apple has today announced that it will be adding a new feature to iOS 12 which has the potential to save lives thanks to its ability to give 911 dispatchers accurate location data when a 911 call is made. User data can't be used for non-emergency purposes, Apple said.

Of course, there are privacy implications to such a feature. This used a combination of cell data, Global Positioning System data and Wi-Fi access points to estimate the caller's whereabouts.

To enable this new feature, Apple is using its HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) technology, launched in 2015, which estimates the caller's location using a variety of sources, including cell towers as well as Global Positioning System and Wi-Fi access point data.

Apple is partnering with the firm RapidSOS on the iOS 12 feature, using its IP-based "data pipeline" to securely share HELO location data with 911 centers.

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'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". With the release of iOS 12, very precise location details for emergency calls will be a standard feature.

The FCC is requiring all carriers to have the capability to locate mobile callers within 50 meters (164 feet) for at least 80 percent of wireless 911 calls by 2021. Cellphone carriers now share location estimates with emergency dispatchers, but these can be off by as much as a few hundred yards.

RapidSOS's technology integrates with existing software installed at many 911 centers, which is how they'll receive the data. "This will accelerate the deployment of Next Generation 911 for everyone, saving lives and protecting property".

Emergency responders are sometimes dispatched a mile or more away from a caller's location.

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