In a post on the Google Europe blog, Google announced that an Emergency Location Service feature in Android would send location information automatically when someone calls emergency services.
Emergency services weren’t exactly designed with mobile phones in mind. We’ve talked recently about some exciting ways that mobile technology is being used to modernize emergency services, like crowd-sourcing responses to cardiac arrest calls to speed up CPR delivery.
When someone calls from a landline, their location can be identified because it’s already tied to a physical address. But when you call 911 from your mobile phone, even if it has GPS, emergency services often have no idea where you are. John Oliver did a great bit on this issue if you want to learn more about it.
Google’s new Emergency Location Service takes direct aim at that problem by sending your location directly to emergency services. According to the blog post,
This feature is solely for the use of emergency service providers, and your precise 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.
Currently it’s only available in England and Estonia. As an aside, if you’re surprised that Estonia is on that list, its worth reading about some of the really ambitious ways they’re using technology on a national scale.
Implementation in the United States will likely be more challenging given the fragmentation of the emergency response system. But similar to the forays of Google and Apple into healthcare in general, these companies are uniquely poised to solve that problem and make this service more broadly available.