For a population increasingly concerned about personal information being collected and transmitted, the idea of cellphone location tracking seems like another reason to bemoan the nanny state. But while many may not like it, the ability to track cellphone locations more precisely could save lives.
Emergency responders say that better tracking technology would make it easier to locate and respond to incidents. However, carriers say that the technology currently available should be sufficient to find the cellphone making a call.
Though the proliferation of cellphones has allowed people to report emergencies more quickly and frequently, the lack of solid location tracking technology in cellphones can make it more difficult to find the person making the call. The swing in the cellular direction has caused many response teams to ask first where the caller is rather than the nature of the emergency.
According to the Wall Street Journal, around 38 percent of households no longer use landlines, preferring cellphones as the communication method of choice. This switch is more pronounced in certain areas; in California, for example, 75 percent of the emergency calls made in the last 18-months were made on cellphones.
While older cellphones were less accurate in providing a location, they were able to transmit that information immediately. New cellphones, on the other hand, can give dispatchers a better idea of location but transmit the info in two stages: first showing which cell tower is being used to relay the call, and then updating with GPS information. This can take up to 30 seconds, and does not work as well when transmitting information from indoors.
With the so called “Snowden-effect” still in full force, and a public wary about where their information goes, it’s unknown whether more precise cellphone tracking systems will be appalled or applauded by consumers. Emergency teams say that regardless of public opinion; it will save lives.
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