Rather than place your distress calls to a dispatch operator, Verizon Wireless is looking to be the first carrier in the U.S. to allow its customers to instead text their SOS messages to a 911 operator. The move will not only be beneficial to those with disabilities–such as the deaf–but also will be invaluable in situations where calling and talking on the phone to a 911 dispatch operator may not be possible, such as in a dangerous situation where you’re hiding from an intruder or a violent person.
After learning about some situations where users were unable to call for help, the FCC had asked carriers to come together in 2010 to develop a solution for the digital age, but nothing had resulted as part of those talks until now.
VentureBeat had reported that in 2009, two girls who were trapped in a storm drain had updated their Facebook status before emergency help was summed. In a separate incident, a man who did not have enough battery life in his phone to dial for help had tweeted about a woman having a seizure hoping someone would radio for help.
So despite SMS falling to wayside due to advances such as Research in Motion’s beloved BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) or Apple’s iMessage, there is still a place for the aging technology. In situations where networks are congested and calls cannot be made–such as after a disaster–usually SMS systems can still be used. And as we’ve learned, SMS can be easier on battery life on phones as well.
Verizon’s system is expected to launch in 2013. Hopefully, with the 160-character limitations of SMS messages, Verizon’s system will also integrate location data from internal GPS radios that are common on today’s phones.