EU requires Galileo for smartphone emergency calls

March 4, 2022  - By
Galileo-supported E112 will result in faster response times and more lives saved. (Image: EUSPA)

Galileo-supported E112 will result in faster response times and more lives saved. (Image: EUSPA)

As of March 17, all smartphones sold in the European Union must be leveraging Galileo signals in addition to other GNSS for calls to the European 112 (E112) emergency number.

Using Galileo enhances pinpointing locations of 112 calls in Europe, resulting in faster response times and more lives saved, according to the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA).

The 112 emergency number is operational in nearly all EU Member States, as well as other countries. People in danger can call it 24/7 to reach the fire brigade, medical assistance and the police.

Most calls to the 112 emergency number are placed from mobile phones. These calls already support the sending of location information to emergency services. However, this information was not based on GNSS capabilities until recently.

Three years ago, the Commission Delegated Regulation anticipated measures to take advantage of GNSS and Wi-Fi location capabilities in smartphones placed on the European Union market, starting March 17.

GNSS versus cell-ID

Until now, the 112 caller’s location information was established through identification technology based on the coverage area of a cellular network tower (cell-ID). The average accuracy of this information varies from two to 10 kilometers, which can lead to significant search errors following emergency calls.

By contrast, GNSS location information pinpoints the call within a few meters. This level of accuracy will have a major impact in terms of response times, ultimately allowing for quicker intervention in emergency situations.

Galileo 112 rollout

The ability for 112 to communicate a caller’s location to emergency services automatically is already being rolled out. The protocol — Advanced Mobile Location (AML) — is being deployed across the European Union. When a caller dials 112 from their smartphone, AML uses the phone’s integrated functionalities and data from Galileo to accurately pinpoint the caller’s location and transmit it to a dedicated endpoint, usually a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), which makes the caller location available to emergency responders in real time.

According to the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), at least 18 EU Member States have already completed AML deployment, while others are in the process of doing so. This implementation is because of EU initiatives and projects such as the Help 112 project, which was set up to evaluate the merits of handset-based technologies in improving the location of emergency callers.

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.