In emergency situations our first instinct is to pick up the phone and dial 999 (or 911 for our readers across the pond). However, for a myriad of reasons, speaking with the operator may not be possible, or even advisable.
If callers find themselves in a dangerous situation, speaking up isn’t feasible, and those who are already injured may find themselves unable to talk. The system is also unfair to callers who might have speech impairments.
So, Google has come up with a great solution and is adding a one-tap SOS feature to the Phone app on Pixel phones and select Android handsets.
Once the feature is activated, the emergency services operator will be played an automated message featuring the user’s GPS location and phone number. Users will be able to select Medical, Fire or Police options on screen, and state whether they require medial assistance.
Here’s how the workflow looks:
If you find yourself able to speak, you can take over the conversation and talk directly with the operator. Google says the information stays on the device and the information is not transmitted anywhere beyond the emergency services you’ve initiated contact with.
Related: Best Android smartphones 2019
In a blog post, the product manager Paul Dunlop wrote: “This feature will become available in the U.S. over the coming months, starting with Pixel phones. We’ve been collecting feedback from public safety organizations, including the National Emergency Number Association, to make this feature as helpful as possible, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with the emergency services community to make people safer.”
The Pixel phones have first dibs, while the select Android phones will gain access to the feature thereafter. It’s not sure whether Google plans to build this into Android Q – expected to launch any time now – as standard, but we’ll keep you posted.