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Tech Talk

• Apple is trying to drag the US’s antiquated system for handling 911 calls into the 21st century.

If it lives up to Apple’s promise, the iPhone’s next operating system will automatically deliver quicker and more reliable information pinpointing the location of 911 calls to about 6,300 emergency response centers in the US.

Apple is trying to solve a problem caused by the technological mismatch between a 50-year-old system built for landlines and today’s increasingly sophisticated smartphones.

An estimated 80 percent of roughly 240 million emergency calls in the US this year will come from mobile phones, most of which are capable of precisely tracking where their users are.

Emergency calling centers, however, don’t get that detailed location information from mobile 911 calls. Instead, they get the location of the cellular tower transmitting the call, and must rely on other methods to figure out where the caller is.

That can take up precious time and often isn’t very accurate, especially when calls come from inside a building. Emergency responders are sometimes dispatched a mile or more away from a caller’s location. Apple’s upcoming 911 feature relies on technology from RapidSOS, a New York startup. The approach developed by Apple and RapidSOS sends location data from an iPhone to a “clearinghouse” accessible to emergency calling centres. Only the 911 calling centres will be able to see the data during the call, and none of it can be used for non-emergency purposes, according to Apple.

Individual call centres will each have to embrace the technology required to communicate with the RapidSOS clearinghouse. Some centres already have the compatible software, according to Apple, but others will have to install upgrades to their existing software.

• President Donald Trump announced Monday he is directing the Pentagon to create a new “Space Force” as an independent military service branch aimed at ensuring American supremacy in space — though he may have limited power to develop a new military command. While Trump has previously talked about his desire for a space unit, he seemed to take those musings one step further, specifically ordering the Pentagon to begin the creation of a sixth branch of the American armed forces.

“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” Trump said during remarks at the White House. “We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal.”

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