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Apple looking into "Location-Based Emergency Information" app for travelers

I'm an American, but I live in the United Kingdom and travel frequently to foreign countries in Europe. If there's one piece of technology that has most benefited the international traveler in the last five years it's been the iPhone. Having a personal computer in your pocket that lets you interact with all facets of your life from anywhere you are is a godsend. That's not even to mention the thousands of apps aimed at international travels that make exploring cities, translating words and languages, and getting you from the train station or airport to your hotel in one piece as easy as tapping a button. Since the iPhone is such an indispensable piece of travel kit, I'm especially excited to see that Apple has begun work on building a location-based emergency information app.

AppleInsider found the patent continuation, published by the US Patent and Trademark Office, on Thursday. Titled "Location-Based Emergency Information" the patent continuation notes that for the international traveler the process of gathering emergency services information for a foreign local can be both time consuming and confusing. That often leads many travelers to not even look into emergency services information until a problem arises -- causing a potentially fatal delay. From the filing:

"When a person travels abroad, emergencies can occur. For example, the person can become injured in an accident, be a victim of a crime or lose their travel documents. In those situations, having knowledge of contact information for local emergency services or the pertinent consular services can be beneficial."

The patent continuation describes a location-aware "Emergency" app that would offer international travelers quick access to local police, fire or medical assistance. AppleInsider points to one illustration in the patent that shows the Emergency app with a drawer that pulls out and asks the user to select an icon for which local emergency service they would like to contact. The site also speculates that the Emergency app would be useful in a user's home country as well. For example, in the US the app could direct the user to alternate assistance numbers (like 311) instead of dialing 911 for situations that are not true emergencies.

However, there's no hint that Apple's Emergency app will see the light of day any time soon, if ever. Apple holds thousands of patents for products and services which never make it into consumers' hands. This is one patent, however, that could potentially save lives, so I hope we will see it in the App Store eventually.

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