Apple Aims to Solve Problems Locating 911 Calls for Help

Apple Aims to Solve Problems Locating 911 Calls for Help


Given that 80 percent of 911 calls are now being placed on mobile devices, providing responders with as much information possible about a person's location is critical. Since 2015, iPhones have been able to pinpoint their users' locations relatively accurately, using a combination of Global Positioning System and nearby wifi networks, a technology the company calls HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location).

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

The new technology will be available with iOS 12 - and the location information shared will be secure, according to Apple, with the company saying that the user data can not be used for non-emergency purposes and only the responding 911 center will have access to the user's location during an emergency call.

Apple added support for Advanced Mobile Location (AML) in iOS 11.3, which automatically shares locations when calls are made to emergency services but only in countries where the feature is supported.

"Communities rely on 911 centers in an emergency, and we believe they should have the best available technology at their disposal", Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement released via Apple's press department. It will also be utilizing RapidSOS's "Internet Protocol-based data pipeline" to share users' HELO data with 911 operators.

Bottom line: Apple has announced a new feature arriving in iOS 12 that has the potential to save lives. Global Positioning System location data will also be used.

Note: iOS 12 is now only available as a developer beta, however, a public beta will likely be released sometime soon. Cellphone carriers now share location estimates with emergency dispatchers, but these can be off by as much as a few hundred yards.

When the feature becomes available, 'Apple phones will send fast and accurate device location to the NG911 Clearinghouse when a user dials 9-1-1, ' RapidSOS explained in a blog post.

Individual call centers will each have to embrace the technology required to communicate with the RapidSOS clearinghouse.

RapidSOS's technology integrates with existing software installed at many 911 centers, which is how they'll receive the data.

On Monday, Apple unveiled plans to work with 911 centers to automatically share the exact locations of iPhone users that need to call in an emergency.

Former top officials at the Federal Communications Commission lauded Apple's move.

  • Terrell Bush