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iOS 11.3 to add support Advanced Mobile Location for first responders

In iOS 11.3, Apple is adopting support for Advanced Mobile Location, a much more accurate way for phones making emergency calls to report the location of the caller. The move should spur more governments to add support for AML to assist in responding to life-threatening emergencies.

AML is currently only supported in parts of Europe and New Zealand; iOS 11.3 should help accelerate deployment

The technology was developed by HTC and UK mobile carriers and has been promoted by the European Emergency Number Association. It essentially activates GPS and WiFi services while making an emergency call, then sends a text with the precise location of the caller to emergency responders.

Most cellular phones can only be located to about a mile (2km) radius by the carrier. Using AML, much more accurate GPS or WiFi location information can pinpoint the scene of an emergency down to around 50 yards (meters) or less. The system does require new support to be installed at emergency services.

Last year, Google added support for the service to Android handsets using the 9.0 update to Google Play Services, a step necessary because most Android phones are never updated to the most recent version of the Android OS. Devices that can update their Google Play Services component should have functional support for AML.

The service isn't yet widely supported. As of last fall, only the UK, Belgium, Estonia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Sweden and the state of Lower Austria had implemented support for the service, while ten other countries were planning to deploy it by the end of 2017.

Apple adding support to iOS 11.3 will dramatically increase the number of users who can automatically report their location in the event of an emergency, and the move should prompt other countries to adopt support for the life-saving technology. Users on iOS tend to rapidly update their iOS versions, with Apple long retaining the crown for the fastest deployments of security, safety and other improvements.

Apple has previously implemented emergency locating features that work everywhere and don't require governments to install special equipment. Apple Watch and iPhone can already send the user's current, accurate location to any given contact using Siri voice commands, and it also supports Medical ID and the ability to dial emergency numbers without unlocking a device.