Apple is trying to solve a potentially dangerous emergency response infrastructure problem.
Credit: AppleThe tech giant will launch a new emergency response feature in its new iOS 12 software later this year, Apple revealed in a statement on Monday (June 18). The feature, which enhances Apple's Hybridized Emergency Location (HELO) system, will automatically share your location with emergency responders, so they know exactly where to find you.
Of course, there are privacy implications to such a feature. So Apple was quick to note in its statement that your location data will be shared securely and the feature cannot be used for non-emergency functions.
According to Apple, its HELO system is able to identify your location using cell towers and a variety of other data sources from your phone, including GPS and Wi-Fi access points. The company has also partnered with a company called RapidSOS, which will securely transmit the data to 911 centers.
Given that 80 percent of 911 calls are now being placed on mobile devices, providing responders with as much information possible about a person's location is critical.
In its statement, Apple said that the the 911 response system is using "outdated, landline-era infrastructure." And in many cases, 911 responders cannot quickly determine a person's location when they're mobile.
The government is trying to do something about it. By 2021, all wireless carriers will need to be able to locate 911 callers to within 50 meters of their location at least 80 percent of the time, according to Apple. The iPhone maker's system in iOS 12 already achieves that.
Apple's new emergency response system will come to iOS 12 when the operating system launches this fall. But you'll be able to download the software later this month as part of a public beta and try out the other features.