Apple Aims to Solve Problems Locating 911 Calls for Help

Gerardo Harmon
June 19, 2018

The move is meant to address the problems with dialing emergency services from a cell phone, where outdated infrastructure has made it hard to obtain a mobile caller's location quickly and accurately, Apple says. HELO, as it's more commonly called, was first launched back in 2015, but it won't be the only technology Apple leverages in iOS 12's emergency sharing.

In the near future, when you call for emergency services in the US, Apple will automatically share your location with dispatchers. "User data can not be used for any non-emergency goal and only the responding 911 center will have access to the user's location during an emergency call", the company said.

"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 press release.

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Emergency calling centers, however, don't get that detailed location information from mobile 911 calls. Global Positioning System location data will also be used. Apple typically releases its major iOS updates in September.

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. Apple says iOS location services are capable of exceeding that requirement today, even in "challenging, dense, urban environments". This new location-sharing would allow 911 centers to find callers location faster and with much greater accuracy than they can under the current system - and finally brings US users up to speed with those in Europe.

RapidSOS is free for emergency response centers, but is now used by less than half nationwide.

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In keeping with Apple's focus on privacy, user data can not be used for any non-emergency goal and only the responding 911 center will have access to the user's location during an emergency call.

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

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