Apple's iPhone users in the United States who call 911 will be able to automatically and securely share their location data with first responders beginning later this year with iOS 12, providing faster and more accurate information to help reduce emergency response times.
Approximately 80 percent of 911 calls today come from mobile devices, but outdated, landline-era infrastructure often makes it difficult for 911 centers to quickly and accurately obtain a mobile caller’s location. To address this challenge, 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 WiFi Access Points.
Apple also announced it will also use emergency technology company RapidSOS’s Internet Protocol-based data pipeline to quickly and securely share HELO location data with 911 centres, improving response time when lives and property are at risk. RapidSOS’s system will deliver the emergency location data of iOS users by integrating with many 911 centres’ existing software, which rely on industry-standard protocols.
"Communities rely on 911 centres in an emergency, and we believe they should have the best available technology at their disposal," said Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. In keeping with Apple’s focus on privacy, user data cannot be used for any non-emergency purpose and only the responding 911 centre will have access to the user’s location during an emergency call.
The FCC requires carriers to locate callers to within 50 meters at least 80 percent of the time by 2021. iOS location services are capable of exceeding this requirement today, even in challenging, dense, urban environments. This new feature allows Apple to make these benefits available to local 911 centres now rather than years from now.
The new feature will be part of iOS 12, the upcoming software update for the company's iPhones and iPads.