999 update

A new update to the Android mobile operating system will almost inevitably prove to be a life saver.

If you dial 999 on a mobile phone, emergency services are dependent on either the caller to accurately explain where they are (which people often don’t know if they’re not at home), mobile-phone masts (which only narrow your location down to a few kilometres) or assisted GPS (which isn’t reliable indoors).

So now – starting in the UK and Estonia – phones running Android 2.3 and later (since we are on Android 6 at the moment, that means almost all mobile phones) will send everything the handset knows about your location to emergency services whenever you dial 999. That’s everything available to the apps on your phone, including Wi-Fi, GPS and phone-mast data. This data, the announcement assures us, will never be seen or handled by Google.

The feature is dependent on your phone network, but in the UK at least, the level of support is pretty thorough with Three, Vodafone, O2, EE and BT all cited.

Google android

Accurate emergency location can be the difference between life and death. In fact, the US Federal Communications Commission estimates “an improved location accuracy which results in reducing wireless E911 response time by one minute can result in saving over 10,000 lives annually”.

Google want to roll this out around the world, but need support from the emergency services to do so.

Hopefully the promise of saving thousands of extra lives will ensure a swift enrolment all round.

Ahead of the Rio Olympics, it’s great to see Britain being first again – or at least sharing the Gold medal with Estonia.

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