When emergency services receive a call they need accurate information, including a precise location, in order to arrive in time to be of assistance. Google has introduced an emergency feature in Android which sends the location from your phone to emergency services when you dial an emergency number.
In a Google blog post, Akshay Kannan, Product Manager, said: "Today, over 70% of calls to emergency services come from mobile phones, but locating these mobile callers can be a major issue. Current emergency solutions rely on cell tower location (which can have a radius of up to several kilometres) or assisted GPS (which can fail indoors)."
A US Federal Communications Commission report estimates that “an improved location accuracy which results in reducing wireless E911 response time by one minute can result in saving over 10,000 lives annually”.
The Emergency Location Service uses the same location technologies available to apps on your phone, including WiFi, GPS and base stations, to produce a more reliable emergency location both indoors and outdoors.
In regard to the privacy concerns some may have, Kannan assured users: "This feature is solely for the use of emergency service providers, and your precise location is never seen or handled by Google. It is sent from your handset to emergency services only when you explicitly place an emergency call, either directly or through your mobile network."
This feature is currently active for people with Android phones (version 2.3 or 'Gingerbread' onwards) in the UK and Estonia. Google are hoping to make Android’s Emergency Location Service available internationally, and are actively engaging with more countries and operators to make this widely available.