11 May 2017

New 111 location system to pinpoint disconnected calls

1:00 pm on 11 May 2017

Police can now track exactly where you are should your 111 call be disconnected - but only if you have an Android smartphone.

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Photo: 123rf

The emergency caller location system, developed by the government at a cost of about $12 million, was unveiled by police this morning.

It uses GPS technology to track 111 calls, so if a call is cut off, the cellphone's location can be pinpointed to within five metres.

However, because Apple failed to buy in to the idea, the technology can only pinpoint Android phones.

iPhones can still be tracked, but only in a much broader radius of about one kilometre.

Communications Minister Simon Bridges said the system was a leap forward in emergency co-ordination.

"The caller doesn't need to do anything - they don't need to access any app, they don't need to turn on their location. This will be automatic ... and it will definitely, over time, save lives."

The phone's location services were switched on only when the 111 call was made, and then returned to the caller's original settings within 25 seconds of the 111 call being initiated.

All location data would only be held for 60 minutes, after which it would be deleted.

Asked whether the system could be used by police to track people outside the context of a 111 call, Police Minister Paula Bennett said there were security provisions in place.

"It's got a strict [memorandum of understanding] as to what it's used for, and that is to be locating someone who is in an emergency situation. It is not used for getting the perpetrators of crime through warrants for arrest."

While it was inconvenient Apple phones could not be pinpointed by the system, Mr Bridges said 70 percent of smartphones in New Zealand were Androids, so the biggest share of the smartphone market was covered.