Google is making it easier for those with an Android smartphone to get in contact with the emergency services and let them know where assistance is needed, and all without the device owner having to say a word.
Google made the announcement earlier today in a blog post that explained the stock "Phone" app is getting the new feature. This is an automated voice service feature and so basically when a user is trying to contact an emergency service, the automation will relay the information to the 911 operator, including advising of the likelihood that the user cannot speak and also the user's location. Google says it is introducing this feature as a means to help account for those instances when someone is in need of help but unable to make a noise. For example, for those that are injured or in danger, as well as those who are unable to speak due to an impairment.
Emergency operators obtaining location information through phones is nothing new, but this will provide an extra level of access when needed which could prove to be the difference on some occasions.
According to the blog post and the images shared by Google, the discreet nature of the feature means that once initiated all the user has to do is hit the appropriate button to advise whether it is fire, police or medical assistance that's needed. This information is then verbally fed to the operator along with the location of the device. In addition to sending the information to the operator, a pop-up will also appear on the user's phone displaying the same information.
It is also worth noting that this is not a one or the other situation as even when the feature is activated the user will still be able to take over the interaction at any point and communicate verbally with the operator.
In a bid to alleviate any concerns over the safety and privacy of the new feature, Google says the information that's shared happens locally on the device and therefore can only be seen by the caller and the emergency service operator. Likewise, users won't have to worry about the reliability of a connection as the service will work irrespective of whether the phone has a data connection or not.
Although the feature has now been announced, it remains unclear exactly when it will become available to device users. For now, Google has simply confirmed the feature will initially be available in the U.S. and "over the coming months."
Equally, it remains just as unclear what devices will be supported and especially during the earlier stages of the feature rollout. For example, the announcement specifically references "select Android devices" with no clear indication of what those devices are. Although the announcement does make it perfectly clear that the first Android phones to get the feature will be Google's own phones – the Google Pixel series.
An example of how the feature will work and look from the caller perspective can be seen below.