Apple has announced a major change in the way its emergency calling system in the US works. Starting with iOS 12, all iPhone users who call 911 will be able to share their location data automatically with first responders. This should drastically cut down on response time by providing faster and more accurate information.
As Apple points out in its press release, 80% of all 911 calls today are made from phones. However, 911 centers still rely on outdated, landline-era infrastructure. This makes it difficult to quickly gather information about a caller’s location in the limited time available.
Apple RapidSOS 911 Emergency Calls
Apple launched the Hybridized Emergency Location (HELO) service in 2015 to plug this gap. That system relied on cell towers and on-device data sources like Wi-Fi Access Points and GPS. The iPhone maker is now planning to use another system made by an emergency technology firm called RapidSOS to make things even faster.
RapidSOS utilizes Internet Protocol-based data pipelines to quickly and securely give out HELO location data to 911 centers. The system will deliver this information by directly integrating with existing 911 software.
Apple promises that this sensitive data won’t be used for non-emergency purposes and only 911 centers will have access to an iPhone owner’s location during an emergency call. This is key, what with the renewed focus on privacy and security over the past few months since the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.
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There are a couple of other major changes in iOS 12 which will make things a bit more secure for iPhone users. A new USB Restricted Mode will cut off access to the Lightning Port after an hour has passed without the iPhone being unlocked. This will prevent cops and hackers from using machines like the GrayKey to force their way in.
iOS 12 will be available to all eligible iPhones and iPads in September.