Google has launched a new emergency GPS service for Android users, aimed at helping emergency service providers to determine a user's exact location after connecting to an emergency helpline like the UK's 999 or the US's 911. The service is already live for Android users in the UK and Estonia and the tech giant hopes to launch the service internationally soon.
Google product manager Akshay Kannan said: "When emergency services get a call, they need to know the caller's location to send help and save lives. Today, over 70% of calls to emergency services come from mobile phones, but locating these mobile callers can be a major issue. Accurate emergency location can be the difference between life and death."
According a report by the US Federal Communications Commission, enhanced location accuracy "which results in reducing wireless E911 response time by one minute can result in saving over 10,000 lives annually".
Google's feature is designed to send the user's location, using the phone's GPS, to emergency service professionals when they dial an emergency helpline. The feature makes use of the same technology that various smartphone apps, including Wi-Fi, GPS and cell towers use, in efforts to ensure that the most reliable location "both indoors and outdoors" is provided to emergency service providers.
Kannan asserted: "This feature is solely for the use of emergency service providers, and 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."
The service is supported by 99% of existing Android devices running on OS 2.3 and later versions. Google said the feature is activated when supported either by users' network providers or a government's emergency infrastructure provider. The initiative is a collaborative effort of Google and various mobile network and emergency service providers.