Google teams up with T-Mobile on more accurate 911 location data

A promotional image of Google Emergency Services on a U.S. smartphone

A promotional image of Google Emergency Services on a U.S. smartphone

The idea is to help save lives by shortening emergency response times through more accurate location sharing.

According to the report, T-Mobile has been working with Google on the issue for about four years and the duo partnered with RapidSOS, just as Apple did in June, to help them send location information quickly to call centers.

Now, when you place an emergency 911 call, your Android phone will use a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi, mobile data, and even your phone's sensors to give much more accurate location data to the emergency center.

Google has expanded Android's Emergency Location Service to more people in the USA, making it easier for emergency services to locate people when responding to a 911 call out.

ELS location was captured via the NG911 Clearinghouse and transmitted to the pilot Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) as supplemental location for some wireless 911 calls. In the couple years since that introduction, Google has expanded the ELS feature to Android users around the world, brining it to 14 countries. Product Manager Akshay Kannan said in a blog post back then that your Global Positioning System information is sent directly to emergency services and is "never seen or handled by Google". That is to pipe location data from smartphones running on Android in the U.S. to emergency call centers. And it doesn't require a separate app or any configuration: "Your location is computed on the device and delivered directly to emergency providers, without passing through Google servers, and only when you explicitly call an emergency number", Google explains.

For those anxious about privacy, Google says ELS data is only seen by emergency service providers and a caller's location is not seen by any Google employee.

Hopefully, with this service in place, USA citizens will have similar success rates as other countries that already use ELS.

Most 911 calls come from cell phones, but until recently mobile devices didn't share your precise location with emergency dispatchers. 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.

In partnership with RapidSOS, Google provide ELS location directly to emergency communications centres through their secure, IP-based data platform.

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