Locating you in an emergency – what you need to know about E112

Published: 
10 June 2019
E112 is a location-enhanced version of the 112 emergency service, allowing responders to quickly and accurately locate people in distress
E112 is a location-enhanced version of the 112 emergency service, allowing responders to quickly and accurately locate people in distress

Videos shared on social media as part of the Galileo Accuracy Matters campaign, highlighting Galileo’s contribution to the European Commission’s E112 emergency response service, have generated a number of questions from users across Europe. Here we address some of the main queries raised in an effort to bring more clarity on the issue.

112 is the European emergency number. It can be dialled free of charge from most mobile phones and, in some countries, fixed telephones to reach emergency services such as ambulance, fire and rescue, or the police. The 112 service is in place everywhere in the European Union and in other European countries.

Location enhanced

E112 is a location-enhanced version of the 112 emergency service, where emergency responders receive the position of the person in distress, similar to the eCall system for cars, enabling them to locate the caller’s position quickly and accurately. To support this, in December 2018, the European Commission adopted new measures requiring all smartphones sold in the EU from 17 March 2022 to have GNSS capability, particularly Galileo capability, so that they can use GNSS to provide caller location information to the emergency services.

Watch these: Accuracy Matters when saving lives

However, there is already a solution in place that uses GNSS technology in emergency calls made from smartphones. Advanced Mobile Location, or AML, transmits a ‘fused location’ comprising the GNSS, Wi-Fi or cell-ID information available on the caller's smartphone via a message to a dedicated end-point, known as a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP, the place where the emergency calls are answered), which makes the caller location available to emergency responders.

It should be noted that 112 does not have an inherent ability to locate people making emergency calls. For this to be possible two conditions should be met. Firstly, the PSAP must have AML technology in place and, secondly, the caller’s handset must be AML-enabled (AML is deployed in all Android-based smartphones and in iPhones running iOS 11.3 and above). Otherwise, the person making the call will have to inform the responder of their location, if they know it.

So, in short: 112 is the emergency service, E112 is a location-enhanced version of this service, and AML is a technological platform for locating callers to the 112 number. However, not all 112 operators are equipped with AML. For those that are, the Galileo-enabled E112 service will support the provision of accurate GNSS positioning as part of the fused location. Check with your local emergency services if you would like to know whether caller location is deployed in your area.

Getting to you faster

Testing conducted as part of the European Commission (EC)-funded HELP112 project showed that Public Safety Answering Points receive most location messages within 30 seconds of the start of the call. This means that by the time the caller has given their name and described the situation, the PSAP already knows their position. Location by cell-ID alone, which uses the GSM tower routing the call, is the fastest but least precise method of locating a caller.

Read this: Do eCall devices conform?

The project found that the average location accuracy using Cell-ID was about 1.6 km, using Wi-Fi it was 23 metres and using GNSS it was about 16 metres. This means that in a situation where only cell-ID is used, the rescuers would need to get close to the location and then search for the victims. With GNSS or Wi-Fi they would most likely be able to see the victims as soon as they arrived. GNSS combined with Wi-Fi provides an ideal indoor-outdoor solution.

The EC study found, based on tests conducted in three Member States, that on average 59% of the calls used GNSS as the main positioning method, 28% used Wi-Fi, 9% used Cell-ID and 4% of calls returned no position. Testing is currently being carried out to assess the accuracy gains provided by Galileo.

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Updated: Jun 10, 2019