If you've ever had the misfortune of having to call 911 from your Android phone, you may have been a bit puzzled if you had to give them your location. Normally, automatic location sending to emergency numbers is only supported through cellular network triangulation, which can be off by several kilometers, or assisted GPS, which tends to have issues with interference. While both of these can help emergency services to figure out where you are, they are far from the greatest indicators out there. Using Wi-Fi, cell towers and GPS, your phone can fetch a very accurate location report almost anywhere. Certain carriers in Europe now support sending that information to emergency numbers upon calling.
In the U.S., such information sharing is supported by a service called E911, mandated to be supported on all handsets by the FCC. In the EU and UK, however, such a service does not exist. That's where the new Emergency Location Service comes in. Using technology already built into Android, the new service ascertains the location of a 911 caller as accurately as possible, and sends that information directly to emergency services. Nobody except emergency services and the caller has access to the information, not even Google.
It should be noted that the new Emergency Location Service is extremely accurate, beating out E911 easily. Thus, rolling it out could even be a big help in areas that already have some sort of emergency location protocol in place for mobile users. According to the FCC, speeding up accurate location information enough to cause a one minute decrease in response time would be enough to save roughly 10,000 lives per year. Any Android device from Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread and onward supports Emergency Location Service, which is over 99% of devices out there, as of this writing. The service is built into Android via Google Play Services, and thus may not be found on devices that don't feature Google Play functionality. With Europe being the first testing ground for active use of the service, users in the UK and Estonia should already see the functionality, should they need it, thanks to collaboration between Google and a long list of local carriers, including the likes of EE, O2, Vodafone, Telia, and Elisa.