Apple is about to help save thousands of lives

A new iPhone feature promises to save thousands of lives and billions of dollars by making it easier for emergency services to find you when you contact them for help.

Apple, iOS, iOS 11.3, Emergency, iPhone, Advanced Mobile Location
ElasticComputeFarm (CC0)

Apple has decided to enable a new iPhone feature that promises to save thousands of lives and billions of dollars by making it much easier for emergency services to find you when you contact them to request aid.

Introducing, Advanced Mobile Location

Apple announced some exciting future iOS 11 features this week, including key improvements for ARKit, Health, Siri, enterprise users and more.

Hidden among these announcements lurked promise of support for Advanced Mobile Location, a powerful technology that gathers accurate location data about a person’s location when they place an emergency call.

Advanced Mobile Location (AML) was created by the European Emergency Number Association (EENA). The system is active in the U.K., Estonia, Lithuania, Austria, Iceland, as well as New Zealand, on all mobile networks. More countries are expected to enable support for the system this year. The standard is already supported by Android devices that run Gingerbread OS or later.

Why does this matter?

The biggest advantage of the technology is that it is so much more accurate than other standards (such as Cell-ID) traditionally used when emergency services try to follow-up an emergency call.

With AML, caller location accuracy is improved up to 4,000 times in contrast to Cell-ID. EENA claims 85 percent of calls located using AML are accurate to a radius of under 50 meters.

In 2016, EENA claimed that “70-80 percent of emergency calls in Europe originate from a mobile phone,” warning that the caller location information provided to the emergency services by these calls is often “inaccurate and delayed.” 

People concerned about privacy may want to check claims that the technology is activated only when an emergency call is placed.

“The system is only activated by an emergency call, transmits the location only to emergency services and deactivates immediately after use. It is typically active for just 30 seconds,” EENA has claimed.

Life-saving technologies

The technology has already saved lives, according to a series of case studies on the EENA website:

  • In New Zealand, police were able to find and rescue a suicidal person who was on railway tracks. The system got them within 4 meters of the person.
  • In Estonia, victims of a serious car accident were rescued when emergency services were guided to within 11 meters of the incident. (The mobile operator’s data was less accurate, at 868 meters).
  • In Lithuania, a 7-year-old boy was able to save his father’s life. Dad had collapsed, and his small son didn’t know his address, but emergency services were able to find and save them.

‘Apple cares deeply’

When Apple was fielding critics (including me) who wanted the company to enable the FM radio many of us thought was inside iPhones, Apple took pains to say how it tries to look after its users. (In fact, only older (pre-7) iPhones host these inactive FM radios.)  

In a statement at that time, the company said:

“Apple cares deeply about the safety of our users, especially during times of crisis and that's why we have engineered modern safety solutions into our products.”

Just weeks earlier, EENA had implored Apple to introduce support for AML.

With the addition of AML support, Apple now has multiple built-in systems that may help save users' lives, including:

  • The capacity to contact emergency services and access Medical ID card information directly from the Lock Screen
  • Support for government emergency notifications
  • Apple Watch and the Activity status monitors
  • The Health app
  • Emergency SOS

Names, not numbers

A 2016 European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) report claims AML can make a huge difference in life or death situations:

“Ambulance Service measurements show that, on average, 30 seconds per call can be saved if a precise location is automatically provided, and several minutes can be saved where callers are unable to verbally describe their location due to stress, injury, language or simple unfamiliarity with an area.”

The impact of this is significant: Some data claims 7,500 lives could be saved in the EU within 10 years of the technology being widely deployed.

With smartphones from both of the biggest manufacturers now supporting the standard, it seems inevitable we’ll see U.S. mobile network operators begin to enable support for it relatively soon.

After all, setting the system up only requires that emergency services and mobile networks activate the service by providing somewhere the data can be sent and then retrieved.

I imagine systems like these will become even more mandatory as connected cars begin to populate the road.

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and get involved with the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Got a story? Please drop me a line via Twitter and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me there so I can let you know about new articles I publish and reports I find.

Download the 2018 Best Places to Work in IT special report
  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon