Apple introduced its Hybridzed Emergency Location (HELO) system in 2015, estimating a caller’s whereabouts through the device’s mobile and GPS data, as well as previously accessed Wi-Fi spots. In an attempt to save lives, Apple has announced that iOS 12 will be using this feature to immediately share the location of the caller with dispatch when US residents attempt to contact emergency services.
HELO has been adapted by RapidSOS, an emergency technology company that plans to integrate as many 911 dispatch centres with Apple’s existing software, meaning the service will initially only be available in the US. This grants them the ability to quickly and securely share data with iPhones sporting the latest update, hopefully improving upon the response times of police, fire and emergency healthcare services.
“Communities rely on 911 centres 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.”
RapidSOS has already introduced an application onto Apple’s App Store, called RapidSOS Haven, that does much of what iOS 12 intends to introduce, however the update will finally bake it directly into the operating system. Security is still a big concern for Apple, which has assured its fan base that the sharing of the user’s locations strictly to the duration of the phone call to the emergency services.
International iPhone users haven’t been left empty handed regarding the automatic security feature, as those running iOS 11.3 or later still have access to Advanced Mobile Location (AML) which largely functions in a similar way. Unfortunately, restrictions to AML differ per country.
Those over on Google’s Android have had access to the company’s Emergency Location Service (ELS) feature since the release of its Ice Cream Sandwich update back in 2012. Again, however, this is dependent per country, on condition that the endpoint to receive such data has been built by the mobile network operator or emergency infrastructure provider.
KitGuru Says: This is a pretty nifty feature that could genuinely help save lives, while not sacrificing the security of the user’s data. How do you feel about automatically sharing your location data with emergency services?