New Android feature automatically sends accurate location data when you call the emergency services

By midian182
Jul 27, 2016
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  1. A new feature could soon be available for Android phones that helps emergency service providers accurately pinpoint your location when you dial 911 from a mobile device. It’s already available in the UK and Estonia, and Google said it is “actively engaging” to expand to other countries.

    When someone dials the 999 or 112 in the UK, the emergency operators use a combination of GPS and cellular base station triangulation to locate the caller. But these techniques aren’t always very precise, especially if the person is inside a large building.

    Now, with Google's new Emergency Location Service (ELS), data from Wi-Fi connections, mobile infrastructure, and even apps are added to the mix, helping to identify a caller's position accurately. This information will automatically be sent to the emergency services, and the feature can even turn on a phone's location services if a user has them off.

    All of the UK’s major networks support ELS, as do those in Estonia, and it is available on devices running Android 2.3 and above, which covers about 99 percent of Android mobiles.

    The fact ELS can track so accurately and is able to turn on a device’s location services is obviously raising some privacy questions. But Google has assured people that the company never accesses the information.

    "The feature is solely for the use of emergency service providers, and location is never seen or handled by Google," said Google. "It is sent from your handset to emergency services only when you explicitly place an emergency call, either directly or through your mobile network."

    Google hasn’t said when or if ELS will come to the US. It’s definitely a feature that could save lives, but the decision to implement it could be left up to each individual carrier.

    Image credit: Aleksandra Gigowska / Shutterstock

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  2. Adhmuz

    Adhmuz TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,828   +633

    "It’s definitely a feature that could save lives, but the decision to implement it could be left up to each individual carrier."

    But because freedom this is likely not going to fly over so well in the US, or it'll cost the network money in one way or another that could easily be covered by the already existent 911 access fee. But saving lives doesn't matter, not if it cost too much money or it invades the crazy peoples privacy... Simple solution, make it mandatory and not up to the individual carriers, what a concept!
  3. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,310   +651

    People in the USA will probably balk at the idea...until the first time their car slide off a hill, crashes into another car, swamps out in a downpour because they thought they could go across a swollen creek because "I've got 4 wheel drive"....THEN they would like it.
    Transparent likes this.
  4. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,274

    Maybe, just maybe we'll get something like this about 20 years from now.
    I was stopped and asked by an ambulance/paramedic driver about a month ago on his way to an emergency for directions.

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