Ingenious

10 December 2014

Pioneering system from BT, EE and HTC improves accuracy in locating 999 callers

accuracy in locating 999 callers

An ingenious new geographical location system can pinpoint the source of 999 calls from mobile phones 4,000 times more accurately than the current system.

The new service, developed by BT, EE and HTC, can track calls to a radius of 30 metres or less, cutting the handling time for emergency services.

Around 60 per cent of 999 and 112 calls in the UK are now made from a mobile – 22 million calls a year or 60,000 a day – all of which are handled by BT call centres. At present, emergency services are only able to identify approximate locations of callers to within a few square kilometres. As a result: 

  • 999 calls from a mobile take 30 seconds longer to handle on average than calls from landlines; it can take three minutes of extra questioning, of often stressed or injured victims, to determine the location
  • In an estimated 36,000 critical incidents reported by mobile every year, the emergency services spend 30 minutes or more searching for the location
  • In around 330,000 emergency calls a year, the caller is unable to speak to the operator. Having imprecise cell information for the location when the call is from a mobile can prevent the emergency services from responding.

Rapid response using precise data

The new geographical location system, called AML (Advanced Mobile Location), provides 999 operators with pinpoint location data to save time and lives. It can identify the source of a mobile phone emergency call to within 0.003 square kilometres, less than half the size of a football pitch, instead of several square kilometres.

When an emergency call is made with an AML-enabled smartphone, the phone automatically activates its location service and sends its position by text message to the 999 service – on average within 18 seconds.

This text message is automatically matched to the voice call and compared to the network’s cell-based information to ensure it is valid. The location is then sent to the appropriate emergency service, supplementing the cell-based information.

Sue Lampard, president of British Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (BAPCO), said: “I’m delighted to see this development. The 999 service has remained voice-centric since 1937 – while multimedia technology has developed around it. In this 21st century it is hard to believe that the UK emergency services are unable to receive good location data – they are reliant on callers to tell them. Invariably during a 999 call, the caller will be distressed, so trying to pinpoint their location adds unnecessary time before resources can be deployed.

“This is the first of a number of steps that need to be taken to bring our 999 technology up-to-date with society. Well done to BT, EE and HTC for working so hard to achieve this – lives will be saved as a result.”

Rolling the technology out across all networks

AML is currently available for emergency calls made on the EE network on all new HTC phones, including HTC One mini2, HTC One (M8), HTC Desire 610, HTC One and HTC One mini.

The three companies have been working together with the other UK mobile networks so that the same service can be used, by all networks and manufacturers, free of charge. It is expected that it will be available on HTC handsets on other networks shortly and a number of other handset manufacturers have started to develop it for models to be introduced in the near future.