Apple Inc. today announced that its emergency satellite-based SOS feature for iPhone 14 models will be available later this month in the U.S. and Canada after it invested $450 million to enable the feature.
First mooted in August and announced in September, Emergency SOS uses a satellite connection when a user is out of WiFi or cellular range. An app assists users in connecting to a passing satellite for a connection and then front-loads questions to assess the situation for emergency services.
Satellites cannot simply be randomly connected to a device. They require a carrier, and that’s where Apple’s announcement that it has invested $450 million through its Advance Manufacturing Fund comes in. The money provides critical infrastructure for the service, with the vast majority of funding going to Globalstar Inc., a satellite service based in Louisiana with facilities across the U.S.
Apple’s investment is said to provide critical enhancements to Globalstar’s satellite network and ground stations, ensuring iPhone 14 users can connect to emergency services when off the grid. more than 300 employees at Globalstar will also provide support for the Emergency SOS service.
“Emergency SOS via satellite is a perfect example of how American ingenuity and technology can save lives,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.
Apple also mentioned that the service was just one of the “groundbreaking safety capabilities the iPhone 14 lineup provides,” referencing the Crash Detection feature in the iPhone 14 lineup. Crash Detection uses a combination of a dual-core accelerometer and a high dynamic-range gyroscope to detect a severe car crash and automatically call emergency services when a user is knocked unconscious.
The Crash Detection service is good in theory but has been somewhat unreliable in practice. A report on Oct. 9 found that the feature was calling 911 when users were on rollercoaster rides. In making false emergency calls, the Crash Detection feature has repeatedly wasted the time and valuable resources of emergency services.