Sunday, December 10, 2023

iPhone 14 satellite connection saves family trapped in Maui wildfire

The images of the Forest fire on the Hawaiian island of Maui they are devastating and are going around the world. And in the midst of this bleak panorama, a piece of news has not gone unnoticed: a family could be rescued thanks to the satellite connection of the iPhone 14.

as shared Michael J. Miraflor on Twitter (via 9to5Mac), a family was traveling in their van when they were surprised by the fire. The vehicle was surrounded by smoke from the flames that seized the neighboring buildings, reducing their visibility and leaving them stranded in the midst of the disaster.

None of the five people on board had a signal on their mobiles to communicate with the emergency services. However, one of them had an iPhone 14 and was able to take advantage of the satellite connection service to ask for help and notify your contacts.

Miraflor shared a screenshot of the conversation between the iPhone 14 user and the data relay center specialist who received the communication via satellite. The image belongs to the transcript that SOS Emergency, Apple’s satellite connection, sends to the emergency contacts of the user in question.

This shows how the iPhone 14 automatically shared the location of the family trapped by the forest fire and allowed to send crucial data such as the number of people affected, their ages, and the type and color of the vehicle used. The recipient of the information was able to relay it to the fire brigadewho minutes later managed to carry out the rescue.

A family trapped by the flames, safe thanks to the satellite connection of the iPhone 14

Without a doubt, the satellite connection of the iPhone 14 has played a crucial role in saving this family trapped in the Maui fires. Of course, the communication also suggests that there are still some details to polish. The transcript shows that those affected by the incident sent multiple messages before receiving a response from the relay center.

In fact, it took more than 15 minutes from the first message visible in the image to the response of the receiver reporting the alert to the emergency services. A long time considering the seriousness of the situation. Although it is also true that, once the firefighters were notified, the rescue process was completed in another 15 minutes.

For now, it is unknown if the initial delay in obtaining responses was due to a failure in the iPhone 14 satellite connection – that the messages did not reach the relay center, for example. Or if it was caused by possible saturation between receivers due to the severity of the outlook from the Maui wildfire.

Regardless of speculation, the family was rescued and that’s what matters. There is no doubt that the outcome could have been very different if there had not been an alternative communication technology to conventional mobile connectivity.

A function that promises to expand

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The satellite connection of the iPhone 14 was intended for emergency situations such as the Maui forest fire. Although it can also be used in less extreme cases. When activated, the mobile asks the user a series of questions and tells them how to point the mobile towards the sky to capture the signal from a satellite.

Subsequently, it sends the information along with other data —location, terrain height, remaining battery percentage, etc.— to a relay center where a specialist requests help on behalf of the victim. In addition, the operator can maintain a communication via SMS with the person to be rescued, giving you procedural updates. The latter is what can be seen in the screenshot of the case in Hawaii.

For now, SOS Emergency is available in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Portugal. However, Apple is expected to activate it in more countries over the months.

The technology has already proven to be very useful, prompting the competition to develop their own alternatives. Qualcomm and MediaTek have already presented similar solutions, which we will surely see soon on Android phones. While in the case of the iPhone 14 —and its successors—, the satellite connection is expected to expand its capabilities with support for calls and web browsing.

Apple is making a very strong commitment to this feature. At the end of last year, those from Cupertino announced an investment of 450 million dollars in companies dedicated to satellite communications. The main beneficiary is globalstar, which will develop and operate new satellites using money from Cupertino. In exchange, it will hand over 85% of its current and future satellite network to those led by Tim Cook.

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