Google, carriers begin enabling ELS on Android for more accurate location when calling 911

Mobile phones are notoriously bad at aiding emergency dispatchers in pinpointing your exact location. To address this, Emergency Location Service (ELS) provides 911 with a more accurate location. Google is now launching this lifesaving technology on Android in the U.S. starting with T-Mobile.

When calling 911, ELS-enabled Android devices will leverage GPS, Wi-FI, mobile networks, and sensors to provide a more accurate location to emergency communications centers. Google compares this combination of data to the high-accuracy location users see in Google Maps, with the feature first introduced on Android in 2016.

Past systems were optimized for landlines and could have too big a location radius, while not working indoors. With 80 percent of emergency calls coming from mobile phones, that legacy system completely failed to adapt to modern realities. In comparison, the average uncertainty radius with ELS has decreased from 522 to 121 feet during U.S. testing. 

In Austria, a mountain biker in a remote, heavily forested area suffered a serious accident and called emergency services for help. The legacy emergency location systems provided a location with a radius of more than 900 meters (about half a mile), while ELS was able to provide a location within 12 meters (39 feet) to help first responders locate the biker.

This technology works on devices going as far back as Android 4.0 and does not require an OS or app update of any kind. ELS will be available when your carrier or emergency infrastructure provider enables it.

On the privacy front, Google emphasizes that ELS-generated locations are “computed on the device and delivered directly to emergency providers—without passing through Google servers, and only when you explicitly call an emergency number.”

Today, it is launching on T-Mobile Android devices. Google notes that “wireless providers like T-Mobile have existing ways to share emergency locations with emergency centers, but this integration with ELS will help deliver higher accuracy locations faster than before.”

It is also available in the U.S. Virgin Islands through a partnership with West and regional wireless provider Viya.

West is an emergency technology company that works directly with wireless providers. For Android users on Viya, our integration with West allows your more accurate location to be delivered more quickly with ELS to emergency centers through existing channels by wireless providers.

Meanwhile, Google is also partnering with RapidSOS, which uses a secure, IP-based data platform, and integrates with existing software at emergency centers.

In testing the technology in the U.S., emergency centers have told us ELS has already helped save lives in their jurisdiction, decreasing the average uncertainty radius from 159 meters to 37 meters (from 522 feet to 121 feet). At the Collier County Sheriff’s office in Florida, a caller who had given an incorrect address was able to be found thanks to ELS. And in Loudon County, TN, ELS helped emergency responders get to a non-English speaking caller who was struggling to communicate her address.

This U.S. launch joins ELS Android availability in 14 other countries, with it already working to provide location for 140,000 calls per day.

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: