Apple has today announced that it has dropped its Emergency SOS via satellite feature in Australia and New Zealand.
This allows iPhone users (with any of the iPhone 14 devices) to contact emergency services when they’re outside of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage using satellites. This allows users to not only message emergency services but also share their location with family and friends via the Find My app.
This service is available for two years from the activation of their iPhone 14 device which then it becomes a paid feature. Apple says that it has already been used to save lives in the 12 location that is was currently active within.
“The Albanese government welcomes the launch of this innovative safety capability. Australians know full well the importance of remaining connected in regional, rural, and remote areas, particularly when they need emergency services. The ability to contact Triple Zero with Emergency SOS via satellite when there is no mobile coverage is a strong backup to keep Australians connected in an emergency,” said the Hon Michelle Rowland MP, Minister for Communications. “This will go a long way in helping emergency services respond to, protect, and ultimately, keep individuals safe from harm. Australians are encouraged to familiarise themselves with this feature and whether their device supports it.”
How Emergency SOS via Satellite Works
iPhone can already quickly and easily call emergency services if a user is in need of help, even if they are unable to dial 000, by pressing and holding the side button with one of the volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider appears. With Emergency SOS via satellite, an easy-to-use interface appears on iPhone to get the user help utilising a satellite connection if they are not able to reach emergency services because no cellular or Wi-Fi coverage is available. A short questionnaire appears to help the user answer vital questions with a few simple taps, which are transmitted to dispatchers in the initial message, to ensure they are able to quickly understand the userʼs situation and location. Apple worked closely with experts to review standard questions and protocols to identify the most common reasons for calling emergency services.
Following the questionnaire, the intuitive interface guides the user where in the sky to point their iPhone to connect and send the initial message. This message includes the userʼs questionnaire responses; location, including altitude; iPhone battery level; and Medical ID, if enabled. The transcript with relay centre specialists can also be shared with the userʼs emergency contacts to keep them informed.
Satellites move rapidly, have low bandwidth, and are located more than a thousand kilometres away from Earth, so it can take a few minutes for even short messages to get through. Apple designed and built custom components and software that allow iPhone 14 to connect to a satelliteʼs unique frequencies without a bulky antenna. A text compression algorithm was also developed to reduce the average size of messages by 3x, making the experience as fast as possible. With Emergency SOS via satellite, users can send and receive messages in as little as 15 seconds in clear conditions.3 Using the built-in Emergency SOS via satellite demo, users can test satellite connectivity on their iPhone by connecting to a real satellite in range without contacting emergency services, allowing them to experience the process and familiarise themselves with the service.
For users who go out of cellular or Wi-Fi range but donʼt experience an emergency, this advanced technology also enables them to share their location via satellite with Find My. In the Find My app, users can open the Me tab, swipe up to see My Location via Satellite, and tap Send My Location. The satellite connection on the iPhone 14 lineup also works with other safety features available on iPhone and Apple Watch, including Crash Detection and Fall Detection.