More reports on: Telecom

Google to notify location details to authorities in initiative to aid emergency callers

27 July 2016

Google will play a larger role in emergency services and provide the location of panicked callers to the 999 line.

"When emergency services get a call, they need to know the caller's location to send help and save lives. Today, over 70 per cent of calls to emergency services come from mobile phones, but locating these mobile callers can be a major issue," said Google in a blog post.

"Current emergency solutions rely on cell tower location (which can have a radius of up to several kilometres) or assisted GPS (which can fail indoors). To help address this issue, we created the Emergency Location Service in Android.

"This feature, when supported by your network, sends location from your phone to emergency services when you dial an emergency number. This uses the same location technologies available to apps on your phone, including WiFi, GPS and cell towers, to produce a more reliable emergency location indoors and outdoors."

Commentators however point out that there would be some concerns about privacy, because locations are just the kind of thing that that people like to protect.

"This feature is solely for the use of emergency service providers, and location is never seen or handled by 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," The Inquirer quoted Akshay Kannan, Google product manager.

Emergency Location Service service which launched in the UK yesterday, uses local Wi-Fi connections, GPS and mobile phone masts to pinpoint users' location  and send it directly to the 999 operator.

The service would work both indoors and outside, and only activated when a call to the emergency services was made.

According to Google, if the improved location service could lower response times by one minute, then around 10,000 lives could be saved every year.

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