Apple to utilize RapidSOS to deliver 911 caller-location information to PSAPs

Donny Jackson | Urgent Communications

Apple this week announced that its devices will utilize RapidSOS technology to share location data with public safety when emergency calls are made using iOS 12, an upgrade to the Apple operating-system platform that is scheduled to be released later this year.

“Obviously, it’s very exciting for us,” Reinhard Ekl, vice president of product development for public safety at RapidSOS, said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We’ve been working with the 911 community for many years, and at the center of our mission as a company is to provide faster, more accurate and more comprehensive data to 911. Getting location from millions of smartphones in a way that is robust, secure, fast and reliable is going to be a game changer.

“It obviously elevates our platform and makes it possible to reach a whole other audience and get it out to every 911 center in the country.”

Apple launched HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) technology in 2015 that leverages GPS, network-based location information and the location of Wi-Fi access points to estimate a caller’s location, according to an Apple press release.

“Communities rely on 911 centers in an emergency, and we believe they should have the best available technology at their disposal,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a prepared statement. “When every moment counts, these tools will help first responders reach our customers when they most need assistance.”

RapidSOS CEO, Michael Martin echoed this sentiment.

“911 telecommunicators do extraordinary work managing millions of emergencies with little more than a voice connection,” Martin said in a prepared statement. “We are excited to work with Apple to provide first responders a new path for accurate, device-based caller location using transformative Next Generation 911 technology.”

Amid growing privacy concerns, Apple announced that the location information would not be used for commercial purposes and that only the responding public-safety answering point (PSAP) would have access to the caller’s location information during the emergency call.

Ekl said that this week’s Apple announcement is a reflection of RapidSOS’s philosophy to partner an integrate with all aspects of the 911 ecosystem.

“In the case of Apple, we receive the location information from Apple—it’s really their location technology that comes to play,” Ekl said. “What we contribute is the modern mechanism to deliver it to the PSAP.

“In other cases, we might be getting information from other sources. If you look at our partnership with Uber, it’s Uber that calculates the location, and we are the conveyance mechanism for the data to reach 911. Really, our core expertise is how to integrate new data sources and supplemental data with existing 911 systems.”

Under FCC rules passed in 2014, wireless carriers are required to provide PSAPs with caller-location information that is accurate within 50 meters 80% of the time by 2021. RapidSOS this year received the results from its participation in Stage 2 testing in the FCC-mandated location testbed that was conducted in late last year, Ekl said.

“It was very encouraging, because it just proved on standardized mechanisms what we had already known from our own field testing—devices with hybrid location from smartphone location services far exceeds what location-accuracy requirements are today and actually exceeds the location-accuracy requirements for 2021,” Ekl said. “The results of our testbed showed that more than 90% of calls were within 50 meters.

“That just shows that it’s time to act. It’s not a viable approach for public safety just to wait until 2021. If there’s location [technology] that’s available today that’s much better and much more accurate, then we just have to do everything we can to get it in front of the call-takers who need it the most.”

The RapidSOS clearinghouse platform also will support vertical—or Z-axis—information when that is available, Ekl said.

“When we get altitude readings from the device, from the application or from any provider or partner that sends us data, we can pass it on to public safety,” Ekl said. “It’s been very interesting to see that evolve. Public safety is still debating how to think about elevation data—there’s all of these ideas about barometric pressure, and nobody really knows what to do with that.

“At the same time, smartphone location services are starting to return an altitude reading in meters. In the near future, it’s been announced by Google that they’re working on floor-level accuracy. That’s just amazing. We have to take advantage of that and give call-takers the best possible data that’s available from the smartphones.

In addition to this week’s iOS 12 announcement with Apple, RapidSOS has conducted pilot programs with devices using the Android operating system that currently are being evaluated by Google, Ekl said.

with caller-location information that is accurate within 50 meters 80% of the time by 2021. RapidSOS this year received the results from its participation in Stage 2 testing in the FCC-mandated location testbed that was conducted in late last year, Ekl said.

“It was very encouraging, because it just proved on standardized mechanisms what we had already known from our own field testing—devices with hybrid location from smartphone location services far exceeds what location-accuracy requirements are today and actually exceeds the location-accuracy requirements for 2021,” Ekl said. “The results of our testbed showed that more than 90% of calls were within 50 meters.

“That just shows that it’s time to act. It’s not a viable approach for public safety just to wait until 2021. If there’s location [technology] that’s available today that’s much better and much more accurate, then we just have to do everything we can to get it in front of the call-takers who need it the most.”

The RapidSOS clearinghouse platform also will support vertical—or Z-axis—information when that is available, Ekl said.

“When we get altitude readings from the device, from the application or from any provider or partner that sends us data, we can pass it on to public safety,” Ekl said. “It’s been very interesting to see that evolve. Public safety is still debating how to think about elevation data—there’s all of these ideas about barometric pressure, and nobody really knows what to do with that.

“At the same time, smartphone location services are starting to return an altitude reading in meters. In the near future, it’s been announced by Google that they’re working on floor-level accuracy. That’s just amazing. We have to take advantage of that and give call-takers the best possible data that’s available from the smartphones.

In addition to this week’s iOS 12 announcement with Apple, RapidSOS has conducted pilot programs with devices using the Android operating system that currently are being evaluated by Google, Ekl said.

 

Source: http://urgentcomm.com/ng-911/apple-utilize-rapidsos-deliver-911-caller-location-information-psaps?page=1