Apple today announced its game-changing safety service Emergency SOS via satellite is now available to customers in the US and Canada. Available on all iPhone 14 models, this enables users to message with emergency services while outside of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage. And if users want to reassure friends and family of their whereabouts while traveling off the grid, they can now open the Find My app and share their location via satellite, free of charge.
“Some of the most popular places to travel are off the beaten path and simply lack cellular coverage. With Emergency SOS via satellite, the iPhone 14 lineup provides an indispensable tool that can get users the help they need while they are off the grid,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.
The new service allows Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) — or emergency services call centres — to connect to even more users in emergency situations, and requires no additional software or protocols to enable communications. Users will be connected directly to emergency services that are equipped to receive text messages, or to relay centres with Apple-trained emergency specialists who are ready to contact PSAPs that cannot receive text messages on the user’s behalf.
How Emergency SOS via Satellite Works
With Emergency SOS via satellite, an easy-to-use interface appears on iPhone to get the user help utilizing a satellite connection. A short questionnaire appears to help the user answer vital questions with a few simple taps, which is transmitted to dispatchers in the initial message, to ensure they are able to quickly understand a user’s situation and location. Apple worked closely with experts to review standard questions and protocols to identify the most common reasons for calling emergency services.
Following the questionnaire, the intuitive interface guides the user where to point their iPhone to connect and sends the initial message. This message includes the user’s questionnaire responses; location, including altitude; iPhone battery level; and Medical ID, if enabled.
“Apple is making an important advancement in public safety with Emergency SOS via satellite, said Robert Stewart, President, Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Canada. “There are many remote and rural areas across Canada where this type of service is critically needed. For first responders, receiving essential information like medical ID and location is important to ensuring we send the right help, to the right place, at the right time.”
Satellites move rapidly, have low bandwidth, and are located thousands of miles away from Earth, so it can take a few minutes for even short messages to get through. Apple designed and built components and software that allow iPhone 14 to connect to a satellite’s unique frequencies without a bulky antenna. A text compression algorithm was also developed to reduce the average size of messages by 300 percent, making the experience as fast as possible.
With Emergency SOS via satellite, users can send and receive messages in as little as 15 seconds in clear conditions. Using the built-in Emergency SOS via satellite demo, users can test satellite connectivity on their iPhone by connecting to a real satellite in range without calling emergency services, allowing them to experience the process and familiarize themselves with the service.
“Emergency SOS via satellite will not only be useful for those who live in rural areas without cellular coverage, but also for those who find themselves in the path of a natural disaster that takes down mobile networks. It will allow members in impacted communities to connect with 911 and get help, and that’s our mission,” said Laurene Anderson, NENA: The 9-1-1 Association’s president and Charlotte County, Florida’s E911 manager.
Using the built-in Emergency SOS via satellite demo, users can test satellite connectivity on their iPhone by connecting to a real satellite in range without calling emergency services, allowing them to experience the process and familiarize themselves with the service.
For users who go off the grid but don’t experience an emergency, this technology also enables them to share their location via satellite with Find My. In the Find My app, users can open the Me tab, swipe up to see My Location via Satellite, and tap Send My Location. The satellite connection on the iPhone 14 lineup also works with other safety features available on iPhone and Apple Watch, including Crash Detection and Fall Detection.
More on the Emergency SOS via satellite here.
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