Life-saving mobile emergency services tech launched in Ireland

19 Oct 2017

Galway Fire and Rescue emergency worker. Image: Rihardzz/Shutterstock

New technology will make it easier to locate people in an emergency situation.

Today (19 October), Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, TD, and Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring, TD, launched a new emergency mobile precise-location service that will aid emergency services in Ireland, helping them to determine the exact location of people in need.

The new service is called Advanced Mobile Location (AML) and has been developed by Google on its Android operating system.

AML has been implemented by Eir, Three and Vodafone, along with BT Ireland, which operates the Emergency Call Answering Service in the country. Every day, the service receives 4,000 calls on average.

AML helping rural residents

AML works by finding a phone’s GPS coordinates and sending a text message to the call centre when 112 or 999 is dialled. The coordinates are passed immediately to the services responding to the emergency, meaning paramedics or firefighters have exact locations for those in need of emergency assistance.

Along with Eircodes being implemented across Ireland, AML will go a long way to make rural emergency response more efficient. It will support quicker dispatch of emergency services, verification of genuine calls and, in certain cases, identification of calls concerning the same major incident.

It will be particularly helpful for victims of assault or medical emergencies who are unable to speak and provide their location; those with intellectual disabilities that may be unable to provide the location of need; individuals making calls from areas, either urban or remote, with which they are unfamiliar; and rural road emergencies where poor signage is an impediment to the caller.

Highly accurate location mapping

In terms of location accuracy, AML “can, in most cases, be expected to be within 50 metres of the user’s actual location where a GPS or Wi-Fi fix is established. In testing carried out to date, the estimated average accuracy is less than 25 metres.

“In cases where a good GPS fix is established, the estimated accuracy has been calculated as being 10 metres.”

Your location services don’t need to be enabled for AML to find you in an emergency, as it can simply trigger the services on your phone for 25 seconds in order to establish your coordinates before turning them off again.

A welcome addition for emergency services providers

AML is designed to act as a supplement to the existing location information provided to the emergency services and is not intended to act as a replacement – callers are always asked for a location, regardless of whether a mobile call is received or not.

The technology is currently only available on the Android OS and is solely for the use of emergency service providers. The data collected when you dial 112 or 999 will never be stored by Google.

Minister Naughten said: “The Emergency Call Answering Service receives on average 4,000 mobile calls per day and, in Ireland, Android market penetration stands at over 50pc. This means the new system will be a huge benefit to people in need and to the emergency services across the country, but particularly in rural areas.

“I want to acknowledge Google for driving this new technology that will have a major impact in people’s lives.”

Minister Ring stated that the technology is “exactly the development that is needed for people in rural areas”.

Google public policy manager for Ireland, Anna Rooney, added that the company was “pleased to help the emergency services reach whoever needs their help quickly and more efficiently with AML”.

Galway Fire and Rescue emergency worker. Image: Rihardzz/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects