Earlier this year, Google conducted tests to provide better location information for emergency calls. Today, the company has announced that the technology is available in the US through new deals with T-Mobile and RapidSOS.
Google’s partnerships with RapidSOS and T-Mobile are separate, and they’re meant to cover as many people as possible when an emergency call is made. Any Android user in a RapidSOS-covered area will have their location sent (RapidSOS is used in over 1,000 emergency centers and covers over 100 million Americans), regardless of which carrier they’re on, and any T-Mobile customer will also have their Emergency Location Services (ELS) location sent. These are delivered through separate channels, so if a T-Mobile customer is also in a RapidSOS-covered area, both will send an ELS location to the emergency call center.
Google’s ELS was first announced in 2016, but it hasn’t previously been in the US. The partnership with T-Mobile and RapidSOS is a huge step forward. Under the current 911 system, wireless carriers are normally responsible for providing location information. Google says its testing this year showed that using ELS provided more accurate location data for about 80 percent of calls within the first 30 seconds and shrunk the estimated radius of a caller’s location from 522 feet to 121 feet.
Apple announced a similar effort for iOS 12 earlier this summer. The new iOS provides automatic location sharing with first responders when you dial 911 from your iPhone.
ELS is supported on just about all Android devices that are version 4.0 and above. No separate app or OS upgrade is needed in order to use it. The service is activated where supported by either your wireless provider or emergency infrastructure provider.