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Apple Announces EPIRB-Like Satellite SOS Feature

Apple CEO Tim Cook presents the new iPhone 14 at an Apple event at their headquarters in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 7, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Apple Announces EPIRB-Like Satellite SOS Feature

John Konrad
Total Views: 10920
September 7, 2022

by John Konrad (gCaptain) Today at a launch event in California, Apple announced they built emergency satellite communication it’s calling “Emergency SOS” into the new iPhone 14.

Carried by all commercial ships, an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) is a portable radio transmitter used in emergency situations at sea. When activated, the EPIRB sends out a distress signal that includes the vessel’s identification and location. The signal is received by satellites and relayed to rescue authorities. This works great but it requires an expensive device with a large bulk antenna. Lower-priced retail devices like Garmin InReach allow two-way text messaging and added features like location sharing but require a second device and monthly subscription.

To solve this problem Apple integrated a new feature called Emergency SOS – which allows emergency tracking and satellite tracking – into the new iPhone 14.

“We designed and built custom components and specific software so that iPhone 14 antennas can connect to unique satellite frequencies,” said Apple in today’s keynote. “That connection is only possible when the phone is pointing directly at a satellite. However, satellites fly too high to be seen by the human eye. So we created a unique user experience that shows you where to point your phone to establish a connection and stay connected as the satellite moves. This way, no bulky antenna is needed.”

According to Apple a satellite emergency message sent from an iPhone 14 is relayed to a ground station and dispatched to “needs to reach “the right emergency service provider”. If a local emergency service provider or Coast Guard accepts text messages Apple can connect you to them directly. Apple has also set up relay centers that are staffed with emergency specialists who can help make sure you get the help you need.

To save on text time and bandwidth Apple will also provide you with a set of common responses to choose from when communicating with emergency services.

“With fewer messages to write and send, you can get help quicker,” says Apple.

According to Bloomberg, in addition to basic messages, the emergency satellite feature can send a user’s location and Medical ID, a virtual card in the Health app with a list of a user’s medical history, age, medications, and information like height and weight. It can also notify a user’s emergency contacts, typically a person’s family, friends, or doctors. 

Eventually, the service will come with a monthly charge but Apple is providing customers who buy the new iPhone 14 with two years of Automatic SOS service for free.

Apple also announced a new waterproof dive watch called the Apple Watch Ultra that is made of titanium and suitable for wearing offshore.

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