Google Tests New 911 Geolocation Tech To Get Emergency Help To Mobile Users Faster

With large numbers of people around the country ditching landlines and now only using mobile devices, getting fast and accurate location information from a mobile device for 911 services is a major concern. Google has been testing a system that aims to get your location data to 911 operators more quickly and with greater accuracy than the data mobile carriers offer.

When a mobile user calls 911, location information is normally sent to the operator by the carrier, but in Google's system the data is sent by Google (presumably using precise data from the actual Android device making the call). Companies involved in the testing say that the data sent by Google was more accurate with a radius of 121-feet around the caller, rather than the 522-feet typical of data sent by the carrier.

RapidSOS, one company involved in the testing, said that Google's data also got to the 911 operators more quickly. In a life or death emergency every second counts, so faster data could mean lives saved. Google tested its new system across parts of Texas, Tennessee, and Florida covering about 2.4 million people. The test took place in December and January and was apparently only for people using Android devices that called into 50 different 911 call centers in those states.

The results of the testing of the new system will be discussed by three firms involved including Google, RapidSOS, and West Corp., at a 911 industry conference this week. Google plans to roll the system out fully across the U.S. later this year. 911 functionality for mobile devices is a big challenge for 911 operators. In March of 2017, for example, a flaw in T-Mobile devices was creating ghost calls from users, which in turn created a bottleneck in the 911 system that was linked to two deaths.