Switchboard operators taking 999 calls from the public will now be able to pinpoint the source of a call originating from a mobile phone down to a radius of 30m or less with the help of a new Advanced Mobile Location (AML) service.
Current statistics suggest 60% of calls to the 999 and 112 emergency numbers in the UK now originate on a mobile device, working out at about 22 million calls a year or 60,000 a day.
However, up to now, blue light services have only been able to narrow down the caller’s location to within a few square kilometres.
This means that it can take operators substantially longer to direct first responders to the location as they are forced to spend up to three extra minutes questioning callers who are often distressed or seriously injured.
Furthermore, in around 36,600 cases per annum, emergency services take up to 30 minutes or more to find the location of the incident.
With AML in play, devices will now automatically activate their location service and text the caller’s precise position to the 999 service during the call. The message will not be visible on the handset and will not appear on the bill.
The service matches the text to the voice call and compares it to the network’s cell-based information for verification of its validity. This data is then sent to the appropriate emergency service.
Sue Lampard, president of the British Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, said: “The 999 service has remained voice-centric since 1937 – while multimedia technology has developed around it. In the 21st century it is hard to believe the UK emergency services are unable to receive good location data. They are reliant on the caller to tell them.
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“Invariably, during a 999 call, the caller will be distressed, so trying to pinpoint their location adds unnecessary time before resources can be deployed.”
“We welcome this initiative as it will help save lives across the UK,” said Richard Webber, director of communications for the College of Paramedics.
“This will speed up conversations and help ensure we can get an ambulance or rapid response vehicle to where it's needed as soon as possible. We also urge other networks and handset providers to follow the lead provided by BT, EE, and HTC to save more lives.”
At launch, AML will only be available on new HTC phones on EE, including the HTC One mini 2, HTC One M8, HTC Desire 610, HTC One and HTC One mini.
However, the consortium has already been working with other network operators and device suppliers in the UK to deploy the service across other devices. There has also been interest from emergency services elsewhere in Europe.
“We’re really looking forward to the other mobile networks and manufacturers making this available too, and are working with all UK mobile networks to help this happen,” said BT 999 policy manager John Medland.