Bottom line: Apple has announced a new feature arriving in iOS 12 that has the potential to save lives. It will see the location of US iPhone users shared with dispatch responders during 911 calls.
The new addition builds on Apple’s HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) system that was launched in 2015, which uses cell data, GPS data and Wi-Fi access points to estimate a caller’s whereabouts.
With the help of emergency tech company RapidSOS, the new system will integrate with 911 centers’ existing software, allowing the quick and secure sharing of more accurate location data and hopefully improving response times.
“Communities rely on 911 centers in an emergency, and we believe they should have the best available technology at their disposal,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “When every moment counts, these tools will help first responders reach our customers when they most need assistance.”
Apple stressed that the data could only be used for emergency purposes and the 911 center’s access to user locations will be restricted to the duration of 911 calls. 9to5Mac notes that there’s already an iPhone app called RapidSOS Haven that lets users share precise locations with the emergency services, and iOS 12 will implement many of its features directly into the operating system.
Apple added support for Advanced Mobile Location (AML) in iOS 11.3, which automatically shares locations when calls are made to emergency services but only in countries where the feature is supported.
The new addition will see iPhones meet an FCC rule that requires carriers to locate callers to within 50 meters at least 80 percent of the time by 2021.