Google, T-Mobile Tackle 911 Call Problem

Sarah Krouse at the Wall Street Journal: “Emergency call operators will soon have an easier time pinpointing the whereabouts of Android phone users.

Google has struck a deal with T-Mobile US to pipe location data from cellphones with Android operating systems in the U.S. to emergency call centers, said Fiona Lee, who works on global partnerships for Android emergency location services.

The move is a sign that smartphone operating system providers and carriers are taking steps to improve the quality of location data they send when customers call 911. Locating callers has become a growing problem for 911 operators as cellphone usage has proliferated. Wireless devices now make 80% or more of the 911 calls placed in some parts of the U.S., according to the trade group National Emergency Number Association. There are roughly 240 million calls made to 911 annually.

While landlines deliver an exact address, cellphones typically register only an estimated location provided by wireless carriers that can be as wide as a few hundred yards and imprecise indoors.

That has meant that while many popular applications like Uber can pinpoint users, 911 call takers can’t always do so. Technology giants such as Google and Apple Inc. that run phone operating systems need a direct link to the technology used within emergency call centers to transmit precise location data….

Google currently offers emergency location services in 14 countries around the world by partnering with carriers and companies that are part of local emergency communications infrastructure. Its location data is based on a combination of inputs from Wi-Fi to sensors, GPS and a mobile network information.

Jim Lake, director at the Charleston County Consolidated 9-1-1 Center, participated in a pilot of Google’s emergency location services and said it made it easier to find people who didn’t know their location, particularly because the area draws tourists.

“On a day-to-day basis, most people know where they are, but when they don’t, usually those are the most horrifying calls and we need to know right away,” Mr. Lake said.

In June, Apple said it had partnered with RapidSOS to send iPhone users’ location information to 911 call centers….(More)”