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Google rolls out emergency service

September 17, 2016  - By
Image: GPS World

With more than 70 percent of calls to emergency services coming from mobile phones, getting necessary help — fast — to the caller can be challenging if they don’t know where they are or can’t communicate for any number or reasons related to the emergency. Current emergency solutions rely on cell-tower location, with a location radius of up to several kilometers, or assisted GPS, subject to errors indoors and unable to establish a floor level in tall buildings.

The U.S Federal Communications Commission estimates “improved location accuracy which results in reducing wireless E911 response time by one minute can result in saving over 10,000 lives annually.”

Google has created and rolled out in two European countries the Emergency Location Service in Android, with other regions to follow. The feature, when supported by the caller’s network, sends location from phone to emergency services when an emergency number is dialed. The feature is solely for the use of emergency service providers, and the caller’s precise location is never seen or handled by phone apps, integrating Wi-Fi, GPS, and cell towers to produce a more reliable emergency location indoors and outdoors.

Emergency Location Service is supported by more than 99 percent of existing Android devices (version 2.3 out and upwards) through Google Play services. The service activates when supported by the mobile network operator or emergency infrastructure provider.

The new geographical location system can identify the source of a mobile phone emergency call to typically within 0.003 square kilometers (less than half the size of a football field) instead of an average of around 12 square kilometers.

According to a British telecomm communiqué, “We see 84 percent being less than 50 m radius, with 16 percent up to 9 meters, 27 percent between 10 and 19 meters’ radius and 41 percent with 20–49 meter radius.”

When an emergency call is made with an enabled Android smartphone, the phone automatically activates its location service and sends its position by text message to the 999 service. This usually takes less than 20 seconds. This text message is not visible on the handset and is not charged for.

The text is automatically matched to the voice call and compared to the network’s cell-based information to ensure it is valid. The location is then made available to the appropriate emergency service, supplementing the cell-based information.
Because Google has tweaked its core Android Play Services software, it no longer needs each handset manufacturer to modify their handsets. Instead they can all be enabled as part of Google’s regular updates to its Android mobile operating system. This means the service will reach more handsets much more quickly.

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1 Comment on "Google rolls out emergency service"

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  1. Steve says:

    This is old news from two months ago.