Google announced several plans of its own, just a week after Apple revealed its latest smartwatch. The watch has several vital features including the ability to identify locations of emergencies.
With the recent announcement, 911 call operators can easily pinpoint the location of Android phone users.
In the latest announcement, Google made a deal with T-Mobile. That is to pipe location data from smartphones running on Android in the US to emergency call centers. This deal is an indication that smartphone OS providers are enhancing the quality of location data that they transfer when a user calls 911.
Problem with Locating Callers
911 operators have a problem locating the exact location of the callers when they use a cell phone. In the US, more than 80% of the 911 calls are from wireless devices. Yearly, 911 receives 240 million calls.
When you call 911, Android devices will utilize Wi-Fi, mobile networks, GPS and sensors to give operators a more accurate location. The company compares the data to the accuracy location that users can see on Google Maps. This feature was first launched in 2016.
The past systems were maximized for landlines. Unfortunately, the legacy system could not adapt to modern situations.
T-Mobile and Google have been working on this issue for years. Now, they partnered to merge Google’s location data with T-Mobile before sending it to 911.
Google is also teaming up with RapidSOS. The company utilizes an IP-based data platform. Then, it integrates with the current program used within emergency centers. The technology is being used in more than 1,000 centers nationwide.
Currently, Google offers Emergency Location Services (ELS) in 14 countries worldwide. It partners with carriers that belong to the local emergency communications infrastructure. The location data is based on inputs from GPS, Wi-Fi sensors and mobile network data.
The technology can work on Android 4 devices and above. You also do not need to update your OS or upgrade an app. However, ELS will only become available on your phone if your carrier enables the said feature.
Emergency centers tested the technology in the country. The operators confirmed that the technology did help in saving lives within their jurisdiction. It reduces the uncertainty radius to 37 meters from 159 meters. Thus, if you gave an incorrect address, 911 operators are highly likely to find you through ELS. During emergencies, responders can also locate non-English speaking callers who struggle to communicate with the operator.
When Google tested the ELS, participants said that it made it easier for them to find individuals who did not have any clue of their exact location. It is especially useful for tourists.
Apple, too, has partnered with RapidSOS to transfer its users’ location data to 911 call centers.
These moves from smartphone makers indicate that these tech companies want to fix the long-term problem of 911 call centers, i.e. to identify the precise location of the caller.
As for the privacy, Google stated that the generated locations of ELS are transmitted to emergency providers. That is, they do not pass through Google servers. Furthermore, they are only transmitted when you dial an emergency number.