Travelers off the beaten path may have a little more security in the event of an emergency with the addition of a new feature to iPhone 14. The Emergency SOS feature allows users to send their location to emergency responders via satellite, even when they’re in an area with no cell phone reception.
To use the service, the person must attempt to call 911. If the caller is in an area without WiFi or cellular service, the phone will offer the option to send an “Emergency Text via Satellite,” followed by a few questions about the emergency and any injuries. This information, along with the person’s precise location, will be transmitted by satellite to a ground station where emergency responders will receive the information via text message. If local emergency responders aren’t able to receive text messages, Apple will route the calls to third-party relay centers that will then contact the appropriate emergency services. Experts warn, however, that adventurers should not get a false sense of confidence with this new feature and take unnecessary risks in remote areas.
The service relies on dozens of satellites circling the Earth in a low orbit. Satellites have been used for global communications for decades, and their technology and functional use is supported by American and international standards. ISO 19389, Space Data and Information Transfer Systems – Conjunction Data Message specifies a standard message format for use in exchanging spacecraft conjunction information, enabling consistent warnings to owners and operators of satellites to inform them of conjunctions between objects in space. This standard was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 20, Aircraft and space vehicles, Subcommittee (SC) 13, Space data and information transfer systems. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the secretariat of this TC and SC, with SAE International serving as the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator to TC 20 and ASRC Federal as TAG Administrator to SC 13.
Beyond the service that Apple is offering, emergency services are undergoing a transition throughout the U.S. as a digital, internet protocol-based system is developed to replace the current analog 911 infrastructure. Called “Next Generation 911,” the system will enhance emergency number services by allowing voice, photos, videos, and text to be transmitted more quickly and reliably. The system will also be more resilient than the current infrastructure, bolstering emergency services during natural disasters or call overloads. Many standards have been developed to further the development of Next Generation 911, including ATIS-1000066.2016, Emergency Telecommunications Service (ETS) Network Element Requirements For IMS-Based Next Generation Network (NGN) Phase 2, developed by the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), and ANSI/NENA STA-010.3-2021, NENA i3 Standard for Next Generation 9-1-1, developed by NENA: The 9-1-1 Association. Both documents are American National Standards (ANS).
Standards also guide many other emergency response resources, including these from ANSI audited designators:
Learn more about the new Emergency SOS feature: iPhone 14s now can send SOS via satellite. Use it carefully.