Apple's iOS 12 will automatically share location data with 911 responders

Apple wants to make emergencies easier to handle with its incoming mobile software.                  Apple

Efforts like HELO, Advanced Mobile Location in Europe, and now Next Generation 911 integration in iOS 12 are meant to combat the fact that roughly four out of five calls to emergency services come from mobile devices, Apple says, despite call centers relying on landline-era infrastructure.

Apple first launched a version of this service, called HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location), back in 2015.

The firm offers an iPhone app called RapidSOS Haven today that iPhone users can install to use to share precise location data with emergency services, and iOS 12 will automatically include its benefits for free for users in the United States - without installing an additional app. User data can't be used for any non-emergency goal, Apple said. "When every moment counts, these tools will help first responders reach our customers when they most need assistance". 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.

"911 telecommunicators do extraordinary work managing millions of emergencies with little more than a voice connection", said RapidSOS CEO Michael Martin.

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Apple said it's adding the new technology ahead of a Federal Communications Commission rule set for 2021 that requires phone carriers be able to locate emergency callers within 50 meters 80 percent of the time. Earlier this year, Apple added a similar technology called Advanced Mobile Location to the iPhone, mostly geared toward the European market.

Apple is making a change to the way iPhones call 911.

"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".

Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said it could "dramatically improve public safety" in a statement. Because it relies on modern location technologies, AML was said to be considerably more accurate in pinpointing an emergency victim's location than prior solutions and able to shave precious seconds or minutes off of response times. Responders can start a location-accurate dispatching process more quickly, coming to the aid of children who don't know their current address, confused accident victims, and suicidal individuals. "Lives will be saved thanks to this effort by Apple and RapidSOS".

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