The tracking technology that will save you in an emergency

Emergency operators can now pinpoint a mobile phone caller’s location to within five metres, after the introduction of new tracking technology at the end of last year.

The Advanced Mobile Location (AML) technology is dormant on compatible smartphones until a call is made to triple zero in Australia, but if a call is made to emergency services, operators are able to see the caller’s location accurate to within five metres.

AML is a technology built into the operating system of Apple and Android telephones that will provide greater location accuracy to triple zero during an emergency call from a mobile telephone. 

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An AML-enabled smartphone recognises when an emergency call is made to 000 or 112, and if not already activated, activates the telephone’s location service functions.

Your phone will then assess the location information available in the area, combining GPS, wifi and mobile network information to calculate your exact location.

Once the device’s location is calculated, the smartphone automatically sends an SMS with the estimated location to the triple zero emergency call service.

This SMS is sent in the background while the caller speaks with the operator, and the caller is not required to do anything to enable the location information to be sent.

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If the telephone’s location services were switched off at the time the call was initiated, AML will temporarily activate the location service for the duration of the emergency call.

It typically takes 25 seconds or less for the caller’s location to be calculated and sent, and as soon as the emergency call has finished the AML will be deactivated.

AML works with Android telephones (version 4.1 and higher, with Google Play services installed) and iPhones running iOS 14.3 or later and Apple Watch GPS + Cellular devices running watch OS 7.2 or later.

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According to triple zero, around 78 per cent of calls originate from a mobile phone, significantly enhancing their ability to quickly locate a person in an emergency situation.

It is capable of providing a caller’s location within a five-metre radius outdoors and a 25-metre radius indoors.

Based on deployments of AML in other countries, most calls (about 85 per cent) will provide location accuracy within 50 metres.

Just as calls to triple zero are free, the SMS messages containing the AML data that are automatically sent by your telephone are also free of charge. You don’t need a data allowance either.

Privacy concerns
Location functionality (GPS, wifi, etc) will respect the user’s privacy settings until an emergency call is made and will revert back to the user’s privacy choices afterwards.

The operating system provider (Apple or Google) does not receive any AML data; the user’s device simply passes it through the mobile network operator to triple zero.

According to triple zero, AML meets all the regulated requirements for privacy, and AML data will be handled with the same high level of security as any other data relating to a triple zero call.

AML cannot be used to track individuals. The AML process is designed to prevent this as the capability is only ever initiated when a call to triple zero is made from a mobile device.

The AML process cannot be reverse engineered to track people or initiate the AML process.

Have you ever had to make a call to 000? How quickly did you receive a response? Do you welcome the ability for emergency services to better locate emergency callers? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Ben Hocking
Ben Hocking
Ben Hocking is a skilled writer and editor with interests and expertise in politics, government, Centrelink, finance, health, retirement income, superannuation, Wordle and sports.
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