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Apple’s next update will help emergency responders find you

June 18, 2018

iPhones will automatically send your location data to emergency call centers.

Some background: While 911 services have been able to locate landline users for decades, cell phone location is much more difficult to determine, causing delays for emergency responders. Current positioning estimates can be hundreds of yards wide. Lowering response times by just one minute could save up to 10,000 lives annually.

The news: Apple is collaborating with RapidSOS, a startup that makes technology that pulls location information from smartphones directly into 911 call center software. An operating system update later this year will put this program on all iPhones. With this update, all iPhone users calling 911 will also immediately send the call center their location.

Apple isn’t alone: Google is experimenting with similar software. Its tests have been able to drill down to an accuracy of 121 feet.

Why it matters: This partnership will help update US emergency response systems which are still rooted in the landline age. Getting device makers on board is a big step toward getting them into the 21st century, saving lives in the process.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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