Govt wants better location tracking for 000 mobile calls

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Govt wants better location tracking for 000 mobile calls

Asks the market for help.

Calls from mobile phones to Australia's emergency services might soon automatically provide location information for people in distress, if a government initiative reaches fruition.

The Communications department is undertaking a market testing process to find out how accurate location information can be introduced to Triple Zero calls from mobile phones.

Such information has not been available thus far despite initiatives in recent years to increase the geographical information and data for emergency calls.

Only broad geographic information was sent with emergency calls until the Australian Communications and Media Authority amended the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination of 2009 in 2011 to require more precise location data.

That information showed 000 operators the standardised mobile service areas (SMSA) where callers were located, but the geography could range in size from 2000 to 50,000 square kilometres.

A mobile origin location information (Push MoLI) program led by Telstra arrived in 2014, with emergency services expected to start using it by the end of last year.

But the Communications department's Triple Zero review [doc] found the service had technical limitations.

Push MoLi relies on the best possible location data available based on the estimated coverage, as provided by telcos' cellular towers used to triangulate emergency calls.

This means that location information from Push MoLi in metropolitan areas where cell tower coverage is dense will be more accurate than in the regions.

Outside cities and towns a mobile tower could be used to provide coverage in a 70 to 100 kilometre radius, meaning an emergency caller could be anywhere in an area spanning several hundred square kilometres.

Similarly, the Emergency+ app for Google Android, Windows Phone and Apple iOS that was developed by Australia's Triple Zero Awareness Group can only display location coordinates to callers and not pass them on automatically to emergency services.

This has prompted the Communications department to look at other ways to ensure emergency services have access to 000 callers' location information.

It has issued a call to market for help, identifying potential approaches like adding geospatial positioning system data capability to Push MoLi and the integrated public numbering database (IPND).

It follows a key recommendation of the recent review of the national Triple Zero operator, which advised the use of coordinate-based technologies to more accurately determine the location of emergency callers using mobile phones.

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