Google Is Helping 911 Save Lives With Improved Location Data For Responders

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Google helped 911 acquire more accurate location data for emergency calls in a trial that involved tens of thousands of calls in the span of two months across several states. Google’s tech could help 911 operators save even more lives.  ( Chandan Khanna | AFP/Getty Images )

Google has facilitated a trial to determine how efficient its location data is in helping 911 operators to pinpoint emergency calls with more precise accuracy.

The test, which involved tens of thousands of 911 calls over two months in a handful of U.S. states — including Texas, Tennessee, and Florida — delivered encouraging results.

Google Helps 911

As The Wall Street Journal reports, Google's test was performed in conjunction with West Corp. and RapidSOS, two companies connected to 911 centers. Currently, 911's system requires wireless carriers to provide location info for emergencies — but it's not always accurate. RapidSOS claims that with the help of Google, operators were able to acquire more accurate location data from about 80 percent of the test calls within the first 30 seconds.

Furthermore, Google's sophisticated technology also diminished the radius of a given caller's location — down to 121 feet from 522. Unsurprisingly, it also arrived faster than data from wireless carriers.

How Google's Location Data Could Help 911

About 10,000 lives a year could be saved if even only a minute is saved in response times. Improved location data might also help dispatchers in emergencies where, say, the caller doesn't speak much English, is bumbling through their speech because of sheer anxiety, is unable to provide an accurate description of their whereabouts, or can't speak properly and give out certain information because they're under duress.

911 directors who participated in the trials said Google's location data is a major improvement.

"There was a big difference," said Jennifer Estes, 911 director in Loudon County, Tennessee, who cited a non-English speaker as an example of how location data could speed up tracking. Without Google's technology, "we would have had to keep working with her to figure out where she was."

Google's location data technology is currently active in 14 countries worldwide, most prominently in Europe. Google said it hopes to adopt the technology in its home country sometime this year.

It's worth noting that this isn't the first time where Google has put its location data tech into good use during emergency calls. Last year, the search company made improvements to its Phone app on Android so that the user's location is automatically displayed whenever they call 911 for an emergency. That's a small yet clever security measure that could save lives.

Thoughts about Google working with 911? As always, feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

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