Apple's iOS 12 securely and automatically shares emergency location with 911

Posted June 19, 2018

Apple's announcement adds to a growing trend of making location recognition from mobile phones easier for both individuals and those responding to 911 calls. We firmly believe that the best technology should be available to 9-1-1 when it matters the most.

Notably, Apple says that user data provided by RapidSOS may exclusively be used for emergency purposes, and only the responding 911 center will have access to the user's location during the emergency call.

Apple Inc. said an upcoming software update for iPhones will include technology that more precisely locates 911 emergency calls, helping first responders more quickly find people in need of assistance.

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The existing system that is in use was originally designed for use with landlines in the 1960s and with around 80% of emergency calls apparently coming from mobile phones it is clear that a new system is required in order to potentially save lives. Apple's new feature will allow dispatchers to more accurately locate Chicago callers who use iPhones.

As 9To5Mac reports, Apple partnered with RapidSOS to offer the company's Next Generation 911 technology as a standard feature of iOS 12.

Apple's HELO tech doesn't share your exact location - instead, it estimates your location by using your cell tower's data, as well as other sources like Global Positioning System and WiFi Acess Points which can be used by 911 responders.

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Apple says about 80 percent of 911 calls come from mobile devices, but outdated infrastructure makes it hard for 911 centers to locate a device's location. Google's Emergency Location Service outfits Android devices (with operating systems as old as 4.0) with similar capabilities. With this update, all iPhone users calling 911 will also immediately send the call center their location. That clearinghouse collects location data above and beyond the FCC's E911 guidelines and then provides that data to PSAPs for free in a data format that they can use. It's another iOS 12 feature that the company is touting with ample privacy measures attached to it.

"This is going to save a lot of lives", Wheeler said.

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