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BT 999 tech pinpoints caller location to within 30 metres

Monday, November 10th 2014 by Dean Reilly

A new service that can narrow the location of a 999 call down to just 30 metres has been launched.

AML (Advanced Mobile Location), the product of a collaboration between BT, EE and HTC, can pinpoint the source of an emergency services call to a radius of 30 metres or less – 400 times more accurate than the previous location techniques used.

Once activated, the service sends an SMS to an emergency services call centre where GPS data is linked to information gathered during the voice call. It is intended to make finding the location of callers to the emergency services quicker and easier.

John Medland, BT’s 999 policy manager told Cable.co.uk: “The way that the location technology works on those smartphones has got better and better in the past few years.

"Even though it’s been in handsets for a few years now, it was quite slow to begin with to find out where you were. It’s got much quicker over the last few years and the capabilities have sped up no end.

“So we thought it was somehow frustrating that we couldn’t get that information through to the police, fire and ambulance so they could help callers who really didn’t know where they were to pinpoint pretty much exactly where they were.

"It was sitting there on the handset, but it couldn’t be conveyed to the emergency services, and that felt like something we could solve.”

Mr Medland explained that BT found the simplest and most reliable way of sending that data was via SMS while the main voice call to the emergency services call centre carried on.

He added: “You’re in a difficult situation, you’re stressed, you don’t want to think about activating an app, or turning something on or off. You just want to dial 999 and you want your call to be answered, and the emergency services to find you quickly.”

“The simplest thing we could do is that if you press 999 on your handset, the handset should then activate its location capabilities – so if it’s not on, it turns on – then we gave it a few seconds to find the GPS.

"Meanwhile we didn’t want to hold up the voice call. The voice call proceeds completely as a normal emergency voice call, it comes through to our emergency call centres where we answer the call, then we do what we normally do on an emergency call is we ask the network for an approximate location.

That proceeds completely as normal. That’s been happening for the last ten years or more. That still goes on.”

The service is currently available for emergency calls made on the EE network for subscribers with recent HTC smartphones, including the HTC One mini 2, HTC One (M8), HTC Desire 610, HTC One and HTC One mini.

It is expected that AML will be available on HTC handsets on other networks shortly. Other handset manufacturers in the UK and across Europe have started to develop it for models to be introduced in the near future.

BT state that 60% of 999 and 112 calls made in the UK originate from a mobile phone. Emergency call centres take 22 million calls a year, or 60,000 a day.

BT also estimate that in around 36,000 instances of emergency calls from mobile phones, police, fire and ambulance services have spent 30 minutes or more trying to locate the caller.

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