The US is aiming to modernise its emergency services by allowing members of the public to report crimes and contact call centres via text messages and live video streaming.
The Federal Communications Commission is also looking to implement automatic alarm, medical sensors and other data services which could help to save lives in situations such as the Virginia Tech shooting, where it is believed that many younger witnesses had tried to use messaging services instead.
"During the 2007 Virginia Tech campus shooting, students and witnesses desperately tried to send texts to 911 that local dispatchers never received," the FCC said according to Wired. "If these messages had gone through, first responders may have arrived on the scene faster with firsthand intelligence about the life-threatening situation that was unfolding."
There are also instances where a caller may be unable to make a call due to lack of time, or in a hostage situation where it may put the caller in danger by speaking. With the increasing proliferation of smartphones many have apps like Qik that can share in real time which may offer an advantage in cerain emergency situations, while the iPhone allows access to live streaming video which has the ability to show both the participant and what is front them, potentially useful in certain situations.
In England there are currently no firm plans by the emergency services to implement the functions of smartphones into emergency calls.
A service has been trialled in which members of the public who are deaf or have a disability are able sign up to a text service, emergencysms, which is open to all. Ofcom told TechEye that the service, which began in September last year, will go permanent next year if it continues to be succesful.
However, if the caller has not pre-emptively registered, the call centre will be unable to receive any message as no comprehensive text or indeed live video system is currently in place.
The Met Police told Techeye: “We don’t have a text facility as yet, but there are trials in areas across different parts of the country, though it is certainly something that we would be happy to look into in the future.”