Satellite location boosts EU emergency services

Emergency services will be able to pinpoint the location of callers using data from the EU's Galileo navigation system. [North West Air Ambulance/Flickr]

The single European emergency number, 112, can now pinpoint the location of callers, thanks to technological advances funded by the European Union. EURACTIV Spain reports.

This step forward was brought about by the ‘Help 112’ project, financed by the EU. Some 300,000 emergency callers each year are unable to give details of their location due to stress, lack of knowledge or illness; a problem the project aims to solve.

Relying on data from global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), the initiative has been tested in Lithuania, Italy, the United Kingdom and Austria.

Using Galileo

According to Internal Market Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, “satellite navigation is crucial to determining the exact location of 112 calls and saving lives. Galileo can locate callers more accurately”.

French Space Agency chief: 'Galileo will guarantee our independence'

Jean-Yves Le Gall, the head of the French Space Agency (CNES), spoke to EURACTIV’s partner Ouest-France about Galileo, Europe’s competitor to GPS that has just come online.

Galileo is the European satellite navigation system developed by the EU and the European Space Agency. It is touted to be more accurate and more advanced than its American (GPS) and Russian (GLONASS) competitors but has been beset by technical problems and delays.

Europe's navigation satellites suffer clock failure

The European Space Agency announced today (18 January) there were “failed” clocks onboard some of the 18 navigation satellites it has launched for Galileo, Europe’s beleaguered rival to America’s GPS.

“The launch of the first Galileo services and the first Galileo smartphones available on the market show how spatial data is making a difference to EU citizens’ lives,” she said.

When fully operational, the European GNSS will have 30 orbiting satellites providing continuous, accurate positioning data, and will be managed simultaneously from several locations to ensure smooth operation.

The Help 112 project spent a year analysing the available technology and defining the conditions for improving the localisation of emergency calls at the best possible price.

Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, said, “I welcome this important step, which helps people in danger and shows how digital technology can make people safer. I hope that in future all Europeans can benefit from improved emergency services thanks to caller location data.”

European 112 Day

These developments were published in a report on European 112 Day, 11 February. This day has been on the EU calendar since 2009, to raise awareness of the emergency services and how to access them.

According to the European Emergency Number Association, less than half of EU citizens know about this service, despite its more than two decades of service. The number 112 is free to call from all EU member states, thanks to legislation passed in 1991.