© Canon EOS 7d Mark II
© Canon EOS 7d Mark II

Satellite navigation boosts emergency services

The common European emergency number, 112, can now pinpoint the location of callers, due to technological advances funded by the EU. 

Some 300,000 emergency callers each year are unable to give details of their location due to stress, lack of knowledge or illness.

The ‘Help 112’ project relies on data from global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), and the initiative has so far been tested in Lithuania, Italy, the UK and Austria.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska, commissioner for the internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “Satellite navigation is crucial to determining the exact location of 112 calls and saving lives. Galileo can locate callers more accurately.”

Galileo is the European satellite navigation system developed by the EU and the European Space Agency (ESA).

She added: “The launch of the first Galileo services and the first Galileo smartphones available on the market show how spatial data is making a difference to EU citizens’ lives.”

When fully operational, the GNSS will have 30 orbiting satellites providing continuous, accurate positioning data, and will be managed simultaneously from several locations to ensure smooth operation.

The Help 112 project spent a year analysing the available technology and defining the conditions for improving the localisation of emergency calls at the best possible price.

Andrus Ansip, commission vice-president for the digital single market, said: “I welcome this important step, which helps people in danger and shows how digital technology can make people safer. I hope that in future all Europeans can benefit from improved emergency services thanks to caller location data.”

According to the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), less than half of EU citizens know about this service, despite its more than two decades of service. The number 112 is free to call from all EU member states.