Sunday 15 September 2019

Google's new tool to locate callers in an emergency is set to go live today

It is expected to improve response times to emergencies

It will be especially beneficial in rural and isolated areas. (Stock photo)
It will be especially beneficial in rural and isolated areas. (Stock photo) Newsdesk Newsdesk

A new system for alerting emergency services to the precise location of callers is set to go live today.

Ireland will be among the first countries in Europe to activate the Advanced Mobile Location (AML) on Android phones.

When callers dial 112 or 999 the AML will send an invisible SMS to operators alerting them to the person's accurate location.

The new service will be launched today after undergoing testing in recent months.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten, whose department is working on the introduction of AML, told RTE Radio One that it will be especially beneficial in deploying emergency services to rural and isolated areas.

AML testers have been able to reach callers within an average of 25m from their exact location but Mr Naughten said that "in some instances we're getting within 10m of the exact location".

The new location system is built into the software of the phone. It's currently only available for Android users. It will automatically become available when customers update their software or register for AML on Google Play.

Mr Naughten described an incident that he experienced this year where he would have benefited from the AML service.

"I was on the Wicklow Way during the summer and an old man had fallen off his bike but I didn't know where I was," said Mr Naughten. "I was lucky enough that a local person came on the scene."

Experts say it will help them identify the location of victims of assault or medical emergencies who are unable to speak or cannot provide an exact location; suicidal callers; children or adults with intellectual disabilities who may be unable to provide an accurate location; visitors or tourists who may not recognise the area they're calling from and domestic abuse victims.

"We can get to emergencies far quicker. Once someone dials 112 or 999 [within] the first 25 seconds this comes live," said Mr Naughten.

Emergency services currently handle over 4,000 mobile phone calls a day. Mr Naughten said that more than 50 percent of those are from Android phones.

He said he hopes it expands to iPhones shortly but it is not clear when it will become available on Apple devices.

Responding to fears that the AML service might breach data protection rules, Mr Naughten said the information will only be used in emergencies.

"It's not being used outside emergencies. Data will only go through ECAS (Emergency Call Answering Service) who will disclose the location to the relevant service."

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