Apple has announced that users will be gaining automatic location data sharing with 911 and other emergency services as part of the iOS 12 release later this year. The new feature will incorporate Apple’s HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) system released in 2015 that uses services such as cell towers, GPS, Wi-Fi access points, and more to estimate a mobile 911 caller’s location along with a partnership with emergency technology company RapidSOS to deliver the HELO data to 911 call centres. RapidSOS already has infrastructure in place that integrates with the software used by many 911 call centres, which operate on industry-standard protocols, and Apple notes that location data will only be shared with the responding 911 call center during an emergency call and cannot be used for any non-emergency purposes.
The FCC’s current requirement is only that carriers can locate callers to within 50 meters at least 80 percent of the time, and this is only mandated by the year 2021. Apple notes that its own location services can exceed this requirement today, even in challenging urban environments, but up until now Apple has lacked the infrastructure necessary to get this information into the hands of 911 call centres.
“We’re thrilled that Apple is giving 911 centers access to device-based location data via a thoroughly-tested, standards-based approach,” said Rob McMullen, President of the National Emergency Number Association, the 911 Association. “This will accelerate the deployment of Next Generation 911 for everyone, saving lives and protecting property.”
“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.”