Apple has announced that its upcoming iOS update, iOS 12, will include a new feature that will benefit 911 callers on iPhone and help to cut response times in emergency situations — it’s a feature that could make the difference between life and death.
iOS 12 will automatically share an iPhone’s location with first responders during an emergency call, Apple says. The data will be shared securely, with the aim of “providing faster and more accurate information to help reduce emergency response times.”
Apple notes that it launched its HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) system in 2015 — HELO already “estimates a mobile 911 caller’s location using cell towers and on-device data sources like GPS and WiFi Access Points.” But iOS 12 will combine HELO’s system with RapidSOS’s “Internet Protocol-based data pipeline to quickly and securely share HELO location data with 911 centers. RapidSOS’s system will deliver the emergency location data of iOS users by integrating with many 911 centers’ existing software, which rely on industry-standard protocols.”
Apple’s press release points out that user data can only be used for emergency purposes — only the responding 911 center will have access to user location during an emergency call.
Identifying 911 location quickly — while callers are involved in stressful situations — has long been a challenge. “This advancement from Apple and RapidSOS will be transformative for emergency response in the United States,” former FCC Chairman Dennis Patrick said.
Improving Emergency Response
Hopefully, Apple users won’t be the only ones to benefit from automatic location sharing. Google has also been testing a 911 location sharing system, as noted in a March article from Government Technology. Perhaps Android will offer a similar feature in the near future. Apple’s iOS 12 update is expected to be released this September.