Apple Expands iPhone's Location-Based Emergency Services Patent

Apple has submitted an application to expand the scope of a patent concerning location-based emergency services on mobile devices, as revealed by a patent continuation published Thursday, and reported by AppleInsider.

The patent, in which drawings of Apple’s iPhone are used to illustrate the concepts, describes a method by which location information is used to determine applicable local contact numbers for emergency services, even if the phone’s operator is in an unfamiliar country, where emergency numbers may not be known.

Apple Emergency Services Patent

When a person travels abroad, emergencies can occur. For example, the person can become injured in an accident, be a victim of a crime, or lose their travel documents. In such situations, having knowledge of contact information for local emergency services or the pertinent consular services can be beneficial.

A person may gather emergency services and consular services information before traveling. However, the process of gathering the information can be time-consuming, especially if the person’s itinerary includes stops in multiple countries. Given the many preparations a person often makes before traveling abroad, a person may neglect to gather the information entirely. A person may try to rely on local individuals or a phonebook for emergency services or consular services information while abroad, but such assistance may not be readily available when an emergency does occur.

A service covered by this patent may appear as a separate app, as displayed in the drawings, or built-in to the settings of the phone. When the operator performs the steps on the device to indicate that an emergency has occurred, the service uses the phone’s location services to determine where the user is located and then correlates that information with a database of applicable emergency contact numbers.

Apple Emergency Services Location Patent

These numbers can also be divided and displayed by specific emergency need, with separate numbers listed for individual services such as Fire, Medical, or Police. It could also include non-emergency service numbers which will help users route calls to the applicable department and avoid unnecessary use of 9–1–1 (or another country’s emergency number) resources.

The patent further describes how this service could be configured to automatically notify a user’s “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) contact by using email, text, or a pre-recorded voice message, as described in the primary claim:

A method comprising: receiving, from a mobile device and by a server that includes one or more computers, a request for accessing one or more emergency services; determining, by the server, a current geographic location of the mobile device; identifying, by the server, an emergency number associated with an emergency service available at the geographic location; identifying emergency contact information, the emergency contact information specifying a in-case-of emergency (ICE) contact designated by a user of the mobile device; initiating communication between the mobile device and the emergency service using the identified emergency number; and communicating with the ICE contact using the emergency contact information, wherein communicating with the ICE contact includes sending, from the server, at least one of a voice message or a text message to the ICE contact, wherein at least a portion of the text message was composed by the user prior to receiving the request by the server.

The patent, application number 20130012155, is titled “Location-Based Emergency Information” and was originally filed on September 11, 2012 before being published Thursday. It lists former Apple iOS Chief Scott Forstall, Gregory Christie, Robert Borchers, and Imran Chaudhri as inventors.