- San Francisco announced this week that it is now using location data from RapidSOS and Uber to help improve emergency response times, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. RapidSOS confirmed the partnership on Twitter.
- RapidSOS offers cellphone location information to public safety agencies, which were largely built for an old landline system and can have trouble pinpointing where cellphone calls are coming from. The company collects data from Apple and Google’s mapping apps.
- San Francisco’s 911 call center first adopted RapidSOS in September last year; the service is now being extended to Uber riders and drivers who dial 911 through the company’s app.
The rapid transition away from landlines and home addresses has upended the emergency response network; according to CBS News, 80% of 911 calls now come in on cellphones. Without a location given over the phone, dispatchers can struggle to pinpoint where a crime is taking place or where to send emergency responders, with a radius that can at times be several blocks. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said agencies could save 10,000 more lives a year if they improved response times by just a minute, and have passed rules requiring mobile carriers to provide better location data.
Through its partnerships with Apple, Google and Uber, RapidSOS has been able to go beyond even the FCC requirements. Michelle Cahn, RapidSOS’s director of community engagement, told the San Francisco Chronicle that its technology is accurate to within 10 meters. The help from the private sector also means that public agencies are able to improve responses without costly investments.
That tracking can also now extend to Uber, which last year installed a one-touch 911 assistance button in its app. San Francisco has investigated multiple cases, including sexual assault charges, against ride-hailing drivers or people pretending to be Uber drivers; the location tracking can help police respond more immediately.
As more robust data and sensor networks come online, emergency responders are taking advantage. Besides RapidSOS, Smart911 has caught on in cities like Chicago and Atlanta, allowing users to create safety profiles with medical and location information to help responders. Other tools like ShotSpotter take advantage of audio sensors to detect gunshots and direct police to the location of a possible crime.