Whenever Apple announces a new iOS, it’s always very interesting to see the new features that they plan to include. Typically, those features are ones that make using the operating system a little bit more fun, or easier. But for the first time in a while, Apple is coming out with features that might actually be useful. I hate saying that because it sounds like they’re not doing anything, and I don’t think that’s the case. But adding the capability for more people to join your FaceTime call is great, but is it going to add something substantially to your life?
Starting in the fall, first responders will be able to access location data in a way that’s secure, when you call 911 from your iPhone. The move is intended to dramatically improve emergency service response time, and Apple says that the feature will be implemented with privacy in mind. This is a big deal, considering what Facebook is going through at the moment. The good news is that Apple isn’t just giving away user data like you might think. This information can be shared with first responders in the event of an emergency. And this is in line with Apple’s commitment to privacy. Part of that commitment ensures that only the responding 911 Center will be able to access the user’s location during the emergency call.
Apple already has a feature called Hybridized Emergency Location or HELO, that tries to estimate an iPhone caller’s location for emergency services – using radios. Next Generation 911 technology from partner firm RapidSOS will now be integrated into iOS 12, which will make this location sharing faster and more precise. Here is how RapidSOS describes this technology:
RapidSOS works with trusted PSAP and first responder software vendors to deliver precise location and rich data to call-takers, dispatchers and first responders via existing call-taking, dispatch, and mapping software.
Currently, you can download an app called RapidSOS Haven, which will share this information with emergency services. Apple thought it was such a great idea, that they have also integrated it into iOS 12, so everyone will benefit from this. The caveat? You have to live in the United States. Every country has a different way of addressing this kind of scenario, so it’s possible that laws in other countries will prevent this data from being shared automatically.
Why is Apple doing this now? Approximately 4 out of 5 calls made to emergency services come from a mobile device. Not only that but by adding this technology in now, Apple is going to be in compliance with a future FCC rule:
The FCC requires carriers to locate callers to within 50 meters at least 80 percent of the time by 2021. iOS location services are capable of exceeding this requirement today, even in challenging dense-urban environments. This new feature allows Apple to make these benefits available to local 911 centers now rather than years from now.
This feature won’t be available until the fall when iOS 12 is officially launched.