The ELS service launched by Google in 2016, sends location from the Android smartphone to emergency services when the users dials an emergency number. This uses the same location technologies available to apps on the phone, including Wi-Fi, GPS, and cell towers, to produce a more reliable emergency location both indoors and outdoors.
Location data is sent via Data SMS or HTTPS, which are both open, OS-agnostic protocols. This feature is used only by the emergency service providers, and the precise location is never seen or handled by Google. It is sent from the handset to emergency services only when an emergency call is explicitly placed.
According to the press release, roughly 95% of calls to emergency services in the UAE come from mobile phones in the UAE. Location is currently only available via cell tower triangulation, which can have a radius of up to several kilometres. ELS will supplement this by providing highly accurate indoor and outdoor location when an emergency call is placed.
Android ELS is supported by over 99% of existing Android devices (running at least Android 4.0), and built into Google Play Services. The citizens do not have to download any application as the capability is within the Android operating system.
The feature is now fully activated for Dubai. All other emirates in the UAE interested in making ELS available to their residents have been asked to contact Dubai Police to make arrangements to transmit ELS location data for their locales, thereby enabling first responders to more quickly find and help people in an emergency.
Brigadier Engineer Kamel Butti Al Suwaidi, Director General of Operations at Dubai Police, said that the activation and implementation of this cutting-edge technology comes as per the directives of His Excellency Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police, to implement the security and safety recommendations emerging from the annual meetings of the UAE Government.
Brig. Al Suwaidi said the meetings recommended “immediate identification of locations in the emergency situation in the efforts of reducing the emergency response time. This is being done by strengthening the technical structure in the operating room by providing them with immediate location identification systems using satellite technology to reduce emergency response time.”
“In collaboration with Dubai Police, we jointly launched Android Emergency Location Service for the first time in the Middle East and North Africa. During emergencies, timely and accurate information is critical and by facilitating this we aspire to help save lives and enhance the state of emergency services.” said Nour Koudsi, Head of Android Platform Business Development and Partnerships – the Middle East at Google.
UAE is the first country to deploy the Android ELS in the Middle East and North Africa following 14 countries from around the world, including United Kingdom, Estonia, Lithuania, Austria, Iceland, Belgium, Ireland, Finland and New Zealand.
The ELS service is based on the Advanced Mobile Location (EML). It was developed in the UK by BT, the mobile networks EE, O2 and Three, together with HTC and Sony handsets. When an emergency call is made with a smartphone where AML is enabled, the phone automatically activates its location service for 20 seconds to establish its position and sends this information via a text message to the 112 and 999 service in the UK, with a radius of 50 meters or less for most calls (about 85% of locations). The service uses GPS or Wifi – whichever is best in the situation.
As this FAQ document from the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) explains, the AML solution relies on the handset manufacturer to program AML directly into their new handset. The Google ELS solution works on almost all existing Android handsets in addition to all future upgrades to the operating system, permitting greater flexibility. Apple announced in January that that iPhone’s next update iOS 11.3 will support AML.