Apple’s iPhone will speed up 911 location info for first responders

Later this year, Apple iPhone users who call 911 will be able to automatically share their location with first responders – an advancement that should reduce response times.

Currently, about 80% of 911 calls come from mobile devices – but due to landline-era infrastructure it can be difficult for 911 centers to quickly and accurately determine a mobile caller’s location.

Apple on Monday announced that it will use RapidSOS’s Internet Protocol-based data pipeline to quickly and securely share HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) data with 911 centers. Apple introduced HELO in 2015, which estimates a mobile 911 caller’s location using cell towers and data sources like GPS and WiFi Access Points.

The new technology will be available with iOS 12 – and the location information shared will be secure, according to Apple, with the company saying that the user data cannot be used for non-emergency purposes and only the responding 911 center will have access to the user’s location during an emergency call.

“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.”

The Federal Communications Commission requires carriers to locate callers to within 164 feet at least 80 percent of the time by 2021. According to Apple, iOS location services already exceed this requirement, while Apple’s new feature will allow the company to make these benefits available to local 911 centers now.