Google Emergency Location Service for Android arrives in the US

Alonzo Simpson
September 20, 2018

In an announcement today, Google revealed that it has teamed with T-Mobile and RapidSOS to bring ELS to the United States. With this, emergency call centers get fairly accurate location data based on things like Global Positioning System and WiFi.

More Android phones will share your precise location when you call 911 in the United States, thanks to a couple of new partnerships worked out by Google.

Almost a week after Apple's big reveal of its new smartwatch, which can detect a user's fall, track irregular heartbeats and call and pinpoint locations of emergencies, Google announces plans of its own. Your location is sent right to the emergency provider, without passing through Google's servers. Additionally, the standard ELS is already present on all Android devices (Android 4.4 and up), so rest assured that whenever you call 911, your Global Positioning System information is likely being shared.

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It's been that way for the entirety of human history and that won't change long into the future. What makes it all the more tragically ironic is that the very devices most often used to call 911 - smartphones - contain exceedingly accurate location data.

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Google said Wednesday it's partnered with T-Mobile and emergency technology providers RapidSOS and West to send emergency call centers information from its Emergency Location Service (ELS), an enhanced location service that runs on 99 percent of active Android devices.

You might be wondering what you need to do to ensure ELS is on your phone.

Emergency Location Services is built into phones running Android 4.0 or newer, but it only works if your wireless carrier or the local emergency call center can pass along the information. For example, in New Zealand, a caller was riding along on the highway when they saw a fire.

In the U.S., emergency tech firm RapidSOS provides ELS locations directly to emergency communications centers through its secure platform, which is integrated directly into existing software at emergency centers in the US. This enabled fire crews to quickly report to the scene and take care of the fire - something that would have been exceptionally hard before ELS.

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