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Google conducts test to help 911 accurately locate callers

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More exact location data can save lives

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google has conducted a trial to test the efficiency of using its technology to help 911 operators more accurately figure out the location of cellphone callers. The test included tens of thousands of 911 calls over the span of two months in several states, and had encouraging results, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The test was done in conjunction with two companies that have connections into 911 centers, West Corp. and RapidSOS. Under the current 911 system, wireless carriers are normally responsible for providing location information, but it isn’t very accurate. RapidSOS says that using Google’s technology, about 80 percent of the 911 calls had more accurate location data within the first 30 seconds. Google’s data also dramatically shrunk the estimated radius of a call’s location, from 522 feet down to 121 feet and arrived faster than carrier data.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, saving a minute in response times can save up to 10,000 lives a year. Improved location data can also help dispatchers in instances where the caller might not speak English, or in a state of panic, gives the wrong address. “We can validate what the caller is saying,” says Bob Finney III, director of communications for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office in South Florida. “We’ve never been able to do that because it’s never been good enough.”

Google’s location technology is currently available in 14 countries, and the company has said it hopes to bring it to the US this year.