Although 999 is a short and easy emergency telephone number for anyone to remember, no matter their age, it is not always possible for an individual to dial the number safely without putting themselves in danger if they are with people who mean them harm or they are not able to dial properly because of health issues.  Apple’s latest patent (US 9,710,092 B2) that was filed in 2013 and recently granted for use with smartphones could however have the answer.

The patent application indicates technology that allows an individual to make an emergency 999 call through their smartphone using only their fingerprint.  In order to avoid accidentally triggering a 999 call the patent application details that the patented technology would only be triggered when the smartphone senses the “manner” in which a finger touched an iPhone screen.  The patent application mentions the following trigger actions:

  • the level of force applied to the iPhone screen
  • a gesture (e.g. pinching or swiping action applied to the iPhone screen)
  • a certain number of taps on the iPhone screen
  • a pre-set sequence of fingers

The diagram below illustrates how the technology operates:

Dawn Ellmore: How to secretly make a 999 call

Once a 999 emergency call is initiated by the smartphone other details can be sent directly to the emergency services without the need for any further input from the user, e.g. GPS will give location details.

This technology is potentially life saving but it would only work if users had previously pre-set the trigger actions necessary to action a 999 call via fingerprint action on their iPhones.

You can read more about Apple’s granted patent application here: