Google Expands Emergency Location Service on Android in U.S.

Posted on August 26, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 0 Comments

Google is expanding its support for the Emergency Location Service (ELS) on Android in the U.S. to more carriers.

“Accurately locating someone during an emergency call is critical for reducing response time and can be the difference between life and death,” Google’s Jen Chai writes. “More than 80 percent of emergency calls come from mobile phones, but locating these phones can be challenging as traditional emergency location technologies can fail indoors or have a radius that’s too big to be useful.”

ELS is designed to give accurate location data to emergency responders so that they can save lives by responding more quickly. Google first introduced ELS in 2016 but it was initially only available in the U.K. and Estonia because the firm must collaborate with local mobile network operators and emergency services for it to work. Since then, the firm has expanded the availability of ELS to 12 more countries. And in 2018, T-Mobile became the first carrier in the U.S. to support ELS.

Now, Google says that RapidSOS and West (U.S. Virgin Islands) are on board as well.

The nice thing about ELS on Android is that it doesn’t require a software upgrade: It’s compatible with 99 percent of Android handsets out in the world and only requires that you’re running Android 4.0 or higher. Your location is computed on the device and delivered directly to emergency providers without passing through Google servers, and only when you explicitly call an emergency number, Google notes.

Google also cites data gathered by emergency responders in the United States, who claim that ELS reduces the “average uncertainty radius” of an emergency call from 522 feet to 121 feet. And there is at least one example of a caller giving an incorrect address who was found at the correct location thanks to ELS.

Google says it will continue to expand the use of ELS to more carriers, in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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