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Ministers Naughten and Ring launch new technology that will reduce delays and potentially save lives in emergencies

19th October 2017
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten TD, and Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring TD have this morning launched a new emergency mobile phone precise location service that will greatly assist the emergency services in determining the exact location of people in need that call 999 or 112.

Following a successful pilot scheme, the new service called Advanced Mobile Location (AML) has been developed by Google on its Android operating system. It has been implemented by Eir, Vodafone and Three, together with BT Ireland, which operates the Emergency Call Answering Service in Ireland. The Emergency Call Answering Service receives on average 4,000 mobile calls per day.

Advanced Mobile Location (AML) works by automatically finding a phone's GPS co-ordinates and sending a text message to the call centre when a 112 or 999 number is dialled. The co-ordinates are immediately passed to the emergency services in responding and dispatching emergency personnel to callers in need across Ireland. It will be of vital assistance to Emergency Services around the country, but particularly in rural areas.

Along with the use of Eircodes, which makes addresses easier to locate, the AML services will further enhance precise definition of location to the services that need it most. It will support emergency services in getting to emergencies quicker, verification of genuine calls and in certain cases, identification of calls concerning the same major incident.

AML supplements the existing location information provided to the Emergency Services and does not replace it. The Emergency Services will always ask the caller for location information regardless of where they receive a location from a mobile phone or not.

It should be noted that AML is currently only available on the Android operating system and is not available on smartphones running alternative operating systems. This feature is solely for the use of emergency service providers, and the precise location data collected when you call 999 or 112 is not collected or stored by Google.

Launching the new service Minister for Communications Denis 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 50%. 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 for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring TD said: "This type of new technology is exactly the development that is needed for people in rural Ireland. It will lead to quicker response times and potentially save lives. I am working on connecting communities and this technology adds significantly to building a more connected and safer Ireland."

Anne Rooney, Google’s public policy manager for Ireland said:“Emergency respondents provide an important and noble service to the community. We’re pleased to help the emergency services in Ireland reach whoever needs their help quickly and more efficiently with AML.”

Ends/

Advanced Mobile Location (AML) - Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is AML?

A. Advanced Mobile Location (AML) is a mobile phone technology to improve on and supplement current methods of locating mobile callers who contact the Emergency Services on 112 or 999. Traditionally, when a mobile phone user called the emergency services and was unsure of, or unable to communicate, their location, the only information available to the emergency services was the approximate location of the mobile cell coverage area or the location of the mobile mast they were using. In most cases this represents an area of several km2 and in some cases this could be in excess of 100 km2.

AML (also known as ELS – Android Emergency Location Service) uses the location capabilities available in Android mobile phones when an emergency call is made and sends this location automatically to the Emergency Services. AML was originally developed for the UK's 999 Service by BT, working with HTC and the UK mobile networks to address the challenge of locating mobile emergency callers. It is a cost effective technique which can provide a far greater degree of accuracy for the caller’s location than was previously available.

The AML technique is supported by Google (who are responsible for development of the Android Operating system) and has been “built into” the Android operating system.

AML will be a significant benefit to the Emergency Services in responding, and dispatching emergency vehicles, to both urban and rural callers. However, the Emergency Services will also continue to use existing procedures to verify location.

AML may provide locations in circumstances where:

  • Victims of assault or medical emergencies unable to speak to provide location
  • Children/adults with intellectual disabilities that may be unable to provide location of need
  • Persons making calls from areas, either urban or remote, with which they are unfamiliar
  • Emergencies on rural roads with poor signage

Q. How does it work?

A. When an emergency call to 112 or 999 is made with a smartphone where AML is enabled, the phone automatically activates its location service during the first 25 seconds of the call and attempts to establish its position. The built-in Google location services on the phone are used to determine the phone’s location (as commonly used by Google Maps, and other location based Apps on the phone). This location may be determined using GPS information, nearby Wi-Fi signals, and nearby Cell masts, as well as assistance from Google if available. Once a location has been established the device sends this information as a special form of text message to the Emergency Call Answering Service (ECAS) which answers all emergency calls in Ireland and connects callers to the requested Emergency Service. The AML location is made available automatically to the Emergency Services when the Emergency call is connected to them.

Q. How Accurate is it?

A. Location services on an Android smartphone, and as a result the position determined by AML, can, in most cases, be expected to be within 50 meters 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 meters. In cases where a good GPS fix is established, the estimated accuracy has been calculated as being 10 meters.

Q. Do I need to do anything differently when I make an emergency call?

A. No – The Emergency Services will always ask for a location regardless of whether they receive a location from your phone or not. The location from your device will, in many cases, provide assistance and information. As part of their normal call handling procedures, the Emergency services must request your location.

Q. Do I need to install or set anything up?

A. No - AML is not an App; rather it is a technology, supported by Google and built into the operating system of Android mobile phones. If available on the mobile device, AML “triggers” automatically and seamlessly on the mobile phone as soon as an emergency call is made and the caller will not notice anything during the call.

Q. Is it available and will it work on my phone?

A. AML is currently available on Android Mobile phones. Google has made the AML functionality available in all updated Android operating systems from version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) onwards.
AML location capability is currently only available on the Android operating system and is not available on smartphones running operating systems from other manufacturers. It is anticipated that other Smartphone operating system suppliers will also support the AML Technique and interface in the near future.

Q. Do I need location enabled on my phone for it to work?

A. No. As the AML functionality is built into the Android operating system it can temporarily activate location services on the phone if “triggered” by an emergency call attempt. If AML enables location services in response to an emergency call, the location services will be disabled again after a maximum of 25 seconds.

Q. What about privacy? – Who can see my location and when?

A. AML locations are transmitted directly to the Emergency Call Answering Service (ECAS) and are available to the Emergency Services on a call-by-call basis only. ECAS uses and stores caller location information in strict compliance with Irish and EU legislation. Furthermore, the location information produced by AML is not visible to mobile network operators.

Q. Can I be tracked using this technology?

A. No. AML location capabilities are only ever enabled by the user’s phone when an emergency call is made and AML cannot be remotely “triggered”. AML locations are only ever produced and transmitted in response to the users own action i.e. the making of an emergency call.

Q. Can I turn of the AML function?

A. Once Google ID has been set up on a phone and AML functionality has been included in a device’s operating system, it is not possible to turn off the AML functionality.

Q. How does AML determine my location?

A. In the same manner as other location services in mobile phones, AML uses a variety of available information to determine the best possible location or “fix”. This information includes

  • Available GPS signals
  • Available or visible wi-fi hot spots or access points.
  • Available Mobile Cell sites. This information is also collected by Google in a similar manner to wi-fi signals although it provides a lower level of accuracy due to the size and range of mobile cell sites.

While GPS fixes provide the highest degree of accuracy, they are often not available indoors, in large buildings, and urban areas can often be obscured by tall buildings (urban canyons). As a result when an emergency call triggers AML to enable location services, using GPS alone (from a cold start) may result in it taking an extended period of time (minutes) to determine a first location. The “Assistance Data” available to the smartphones location services from location servers in Google is used to greatly speed up this process (to seconds) if a data connection is available.

Q. What about Data – do I need a data connection?

A. No. AML can operate without mobile data however, the availability of a data connection will greatly reduce the time required to establish location, improve the accuracy of the determined location and improve the likelihood that the Emergency Services will receive a useful location when an emergency call is triggered.

Q. Do I need mobile coverage for it to work?

A. Yes. While you can always make an Emergency Call using any available mobile network (does not need to be the network you subscribe to), AML will only work when you have coverage or service available from your own service provider network. This is due to the fact that in order to send the AML message to the Emergency Services your phone uses an invisible SMS message and SMS messages will only be sent via your home networks SMS service.

Q. Will it work while I am driving?

A. Yes. It should be noted however that an AML fix or location is a point-in-time location and the location provided to the Emergency Services will be the position at the start of the emergency call which could be a number of kilometres away from your actual position after a few minutes.

Emergency callers are reminded that when calling from a vehicle they should try to provide, where possible, the name or number of the road they are on, the last junction or landmark they passed and most importantly their direction of travel (e.g. southbound, or from place A to place B). This is particularly important on a motorway.

Q. Where else is AML being used currently?

A. As of June 2017 AML/ELS is fully operational in over 10 countries globally, including the United Kingdom. It is also being trialled in a number of countries around the world. 

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