SOS Alarm wants access to position data

Mobile phone positioning technology could help rescuers find callers after they dial 112. But the law prevents the technology from being used.

Now, SOS Alarm, the Swedish emergency call centre, asks for a change.

When SOS Alarm receives a 112 call, a matter of seconds can mean the difference between life and death. How fast can help arrive where it’s needed, depends on how long it takes to find out where the caller is located. Gunnar Bergström is responsible for the 112 service at SOS Alarm and wants the centre to get acquainted with the positinoing technology found in the mobile phone of the caller.

“When calling the emergency number 112, it should mean that you agree to get the fastest possible help in the quickest possible time. And just to be able to ensure where you are" says Gunnar Bergström.

He adds that the currently used technique, besides information given orally by the caller, is too imprecise. In sparsely populated areas, it can result in a search area of several square kilometres. However, the mobile phone’s built-in technology can provide a precision of around ten metres. Per Andersson, the Head of the Ambulance Care Unit at the Akademiska Hospital in Uppsala is positive to the proposal of SOS Alarm.

“It is very helpful, even for us. The law, often referred to as the Act on Electronic Communications, is around for a few years already. Technological progress is fast” he says.

According to Per Andersson, it is primarily in traffic accidents on the highway that the positioning technique would be the most helpful, in cases that a caller does not know exactly which exit he/she passed, whether he/she has crossed a county border or not, and so on. But even when the caller is in the terrain or if the emergency call is made by someone who is visiting and is not from the county.

However, registering someone's position involves handling sensitive data. Per Andersson is aware that there is a balance between efficiency and personal integrity.

"It's obviously an extremely important factor when you look at this. For the part of healthcare, I think it is quite uncontroversial that the emergency call makes sure that you will get an ambulance that will find you.” says Per Andersson.

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* Please note that the translation to English has been done by EENA.

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