Emergency 112 calls in Europe saving lives with GNSS

February 14, 2017  - By

On Feb. 11, the European Union (EU) celebrated 112 Day in honor of the single European emergency phone number. The 112 system uses Advanced Mobile Location (AML) to receive location information from mobile phones.


Photo: 112 SOS

Every year, about 300,000 people who call the emergency services cannot describe their location because they may not know where they are, because they are too young to say or they are too injured to communicate. In these situations, knowing the exact location of the caller can help emergency services react quickly and save lives, according to the European Commission.

Europeans can dial 112 for free in any EU country if they need to contact emergency services, thanks to EU legislation introduced in 1991. Today’s mobile and smart devices are able to provide emergency services with accurate caller location via an SMS or data channel using GNSS or Wi-Fi capabilities.

An EU-financed project — HELP 112 — looked into how GNSS can improve caller location using the AML solution. It was tested in the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Italy and parts of Austria.

A new report shows significant improvement for caller location in several EU countries. Lithuania upgraded its network-based location solution to ensure significantly more accurate caller location. The United Kingdom and Estonia deployed the AML handset-based caller location solution that can locate a person to within 100 meters.

Currently, AML handset-based caller location for emergency services is available only on Android phones.

Life-saving assistance

The system has already saved lives. On Jan. 10, an emergency call was received by the Klaipeda Public Safety Answering Point in Lithuania. The caller was an 8-year-old boy who reported he had found his father unconscious or dead, probably struck by electricity. He told the operator that he didn’t know his address or the telephone number of any of his relatives.

Although the boy unaware of his address, cell-ID location information received by the emergency services had a radius of 14 kilometers. Fortunately, around one minute after the call was received, the operator received the location via Android Emergency Location (Advanced Mobile Location), with a radius of 6 meters.

The police and ambulance services were dispatched, and emergency responders provided acute medical care to the man who had suffered an epileptic seizure.

In Austria, a woman riding a horse fell on her head and was unable to describe where she was. GNSS provided emergency services with her exact location within seconds, so she could be rescued.

Galileo increases accuracy

“Satellite navigation is crucial in determining the precise location of the 112 caller and saving lives,” says Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs. “Galileo, Europe’s own satellite navigation system, will be able to locate the caller with much greater accuracy. The launch of Galileo’s initial services and first Galileo smartphones available on the market show how space data is making a difference in daily lives of EU citizens.”

In addition to funding research, the commission is also improving EU rules on 112. In September 2016, the commission proposed an update of EU telecom rules in the form of an Electronic Communication Code. The commission wants to enhance the relevant provisions of the Universal Service Directive to facilitate the use of handset-based caller location as complement to network-based location data.

According to the proposal, member states will be obliged to ensure that caller location, be it network based (provided by the mobile operator) or handset based (retrieved from a GNSS or Wi-Fi enabled phone), arrives in a timely manner to the public safety answering point that handles emergency calls.

Whichever technology is used, caller location will be free for citizens and the public safety answering points.

This article is tagged with , , , and posted in Featured Stories, Latest News, Mobile

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.