Thanks to a partnership between Apple and RapidSOS, 911 operators in the United States will be able to accurately and rapidly pinpoint your location if you have IOS 12. The new update, which is set to release later this year, will use an IP-based data pipeline built by RapidSOS to deliver your location data to 911 operators.
The current 911 location system is quite outdated. About 80% of 911 calls come from mobile phones, but the current 911 location system is still optimized for landlines. With landlines, your location is rapidly located by finding your phone’s billing address in a database. As you can imagine, this won’t fly with mobile devices, so your phone’s GPS chip is set to communicate with nearby cell towers to pinpoint your location. Here’s the problem: this method is often inaccurate. In 2015, a USA Today report found that the chances of 911 operators getting an accurate fix on your location was as low as 10%. When you’re in an emergency, that simply isn’t good enough.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is requiring cell carriers to locate callers within 50 meters at least 80% of the time by 2021. However, with the way 911 centers are obtaining your location, this seemed like an unlikely outcome. The way 911 centers extract your location data from cell towers is both time-consuming and inaccurate.
Enter RapidSOS. Over the past five years, RapidSOS has partnered with many public safety software vendors. The intent was to initiate an innovative data collection service to be used for 911 operators to rapidly and accurately pinpoint cellular location data. For IOS 12 users, a query will be sent automatically to RapidSOS when a 911 call is made. RapidSOS then transmits additional data on your location to the 911 center, allowing operators to see more precise data on your location.
Though the potential for this technology is enormous, some critics have voiced their doubts about privacy and security. Apple, on the other hand, has set out to calm those doubts by stating that the data “cannot be used for any non-emergency purpose and only the responding 911 center will have access to the user’s location during an emergency call.” Data will be protected with end-to-end encryption, adding a buffer of security that’s commonly used for mobile banking technology.
The goal for Apple is to improve the safety of its users. “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.”
Contact us today if you’re interested in finding out more about how the new 911 location system will work with your phone.