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RapidSOS and Google Rolling Out RCS Tools for 911 Calls

Thanks to Apple, rich communication services are in the news, and now a new partnership could help spread those tools deeper into the public safety space. RapidSOS is coming off a major funding round.

911 emergency dispatcher
A new partnership between Google and RapidSOS aims to make it easier for emergency callers to describe their situations to dispatchers — a move that could also provide benefits to people who are deaf or have speech impediments or other disabilities.

The public safety technology firm said that it is working with the tech giant to roll out Rich Communication Services, or RCS, to 911 centers this winter.

RCS — recently in the news thanks to Apple’s decision to support the protocol — enables emergency callers to send texts to dispatchers. RCS also can support such features as videos and multimedia files.

As RapidSOS put it in a statement, the RCS rollout with Google will “start in areas where text-to-911 capabilities are currently not supported to close gaps in emergency communications coverage and provide new safety benefits.”

Callers can use the tool as well to confirm message deliveries to dispatchers, check that they are replying and send them pictures and videos from the emergency. The rollout also means that callers can use Android Emergency Location Service while seeking help from emergency call centers.

According to the statement, just more than half of 911 call centers in the U.S. can receive text messages.

Not only that, but disabilities can make it difficult for millions of people in the country to have a “clear conversation in an emergency,” Ed Parkinson, RapidSOS' president of public sector, told Government Technology via email. “This is an opportunity to help any public safety agency harness a modern, secure messaging technology to close [those gaps].”

RapidSOS first started working with Google in 2018, when the public safety tech supplier embraced the Android Emergency Location Service, he said.

RapidSOS launched in 2012. Earlier this year, it raised $75 million from BlackRock, part of a $150 million Series C funding round, in a sign of how the industry’s focus on real-time emergency data is helping to attract investors.