Apple’s ground-breaking safety service Emergency SOS via satellite is now available to customers in France, Germany, Ireland, and the UK. Available on all iPhone 14 models, the innovative technology enables users to message with emergency services while outside of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage.
Additionally, if users want to reassure friends and family of their whereabouts while traveling off the grid, they can now open the Find My app and share their location via satellite.
Every model in the iPhone 14 line-up — iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max — can connect directly to a satellite through a combination of custom-designed components and deeply integrated software.
Emergency SOS via satellite builds on existing features vital to iPhone users, including Emergency SOS, Medical ID, emergency contacts, and Find My location sharing, offering the ability to connect to a satellite for a more 360-degree approach to sharing critical information with emergency services, family, and friends.
This game-changing service allows Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) — or emergency services call centres — to connect to even more users in emergency situations, and requires no additional software or protocols to enable communications.
Users will be connected directly to emergency services that are equipped to receive text messages, or to relay centres with Apple-trained emergency specialists who are ready to contact PSAPs that cannot receive text messages on the user’s behalf.
“Being able to use a satellite connection to contact 999 or 112 if there is no cellular or Wi-Fi coverage is a breakthrough that Apple has brought to the general public with iPhone 14,” said John Anthony, the British Association of Public Safety Communications Officials’ president.
“The feature will mean that emergency services can be alerted when it was not previously possible and are then able to do their jobs to better effect, in part because of the initial information that can be shared with dispatchers, such as location and essential details about the emergency. Ultimately, this will help save lives.”
How Emergency SOS via Satellite Works
iPhone can quickly and easily call emergency services if a user is in need of help, even if they are unable to dial 911 (999 in the UK).
With Emergency SOS via satellite — introduced with the iPhone 14 line-up — if a user is not able to reach emergency services because no cellular or Wi-Fi coverage is available, an easy-to-use interface appears on iPhone to get the user help utilizing a satellite connection.
A short questionnaire appears to help the user answer vital questions with a few simple taps, which is transmitted to dispatchers in the initial message, to ensure they are able to quickly understand a user’s 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 to point their iPhone to connect and sends the initial message. This message includes the user’s questionnaire responses; location, including altitude; iPhone battery level; and Medical ID, if enabled.
The questionnaire and follow-up messages are relayed directly via satellite to dispatchers that accept text messages, or to relay centres staffed by Apple‑trained specialists who can call for help on the user’s behalf. The transcript can also be shared with the user’s emergency contacts to keep them informed.
“Emergency SOS via satellite is a major innovation that will save lives by helping iPhone 14 users in remote areas who might not otherwise be able to reach emergency services,” said Michael Kelly, BT Ireland’s head of the Emergency Call Answering Service.
“Because Apple has implemented a model that emergency operators are familiar with, we can expect a seamless rollout for our operators and emergency service partners.”
Satellites move rapidly, have low bandwidth, and are located thousands of miles 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 satellite’s unique frequencies without a bulky antenna.
A text compression algorithm was also developed to reduce the average size of messages by 300 percent, 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.
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 calling emergency services, allowing them to experience the process and familiarize themselves with the service.
“Emergency SOS via satellite will improve the situation for people who are in trouble and outside of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage, allowing them to reach emergency services and get help in emergency situations,” said Jan Tino Demel, the Expert Group for Control Center Technology and Emergency Calls Committee’s chairman.
“The function can be used immediately without any adjustments to existing systems. With highly qualified, multilingual emergency specialists, Apple facilitates the transfer of emergency calls to the responsible rescue or police control centre. Without a doubt, this can save lives.”
For users who go off the grid but don’t 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 line-up also works with other safety features available on iPhone and Apple Watch, including Crash Detection and Fall Detection.
Emergency SOS via satellite and Find My via satellite are available today in the US and Canada, and will be available in France, Germany, Ireland, and the UK in December.
The service will be included for free for two years starting at the time of activation of a new iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Emergency SOS via satellite and Find My via satellite require iOS 16.1.