Apple’s Satellite feature already saving lives


Until recently, Apple’s involvement in the satellite industry was not a thing, despite being a highly respected company and having many industry professionals use their products. However, last year, Apple partnered with Globalstar to offer Emergency SOS through satellite technology to users of the iPhone 14, providing emergency services to individuals who are in remote locations without access to terrestrial or wireless connections. This partnership has generated a lot of excitement in the industry, as it marks a major collaboration between one of the world’s largest companies and the satellite sector.

Michael Trela, the Senior Director of the Satellite Connectivity Group at Apple, was part of a team that created the Emergency SOS via satellite feature, which provides access to emergency services for iPhone 14 users who are off the grid and away from a terrestrial and wireless connection. Trela had worked with Skybox Imaging, a pioneer in the New Space era, before joining Apple’s staff. Trela won the 2022 Satellite Technology of the Year award and spoke with Via Satellite about creating a life-saving service and the possibility of further collaboration with the satellite sector. Trela mentioned that Apple viewed satellite connectivity as an important way to extend its safety features and that many teams across Apple collaborated to bring this capability to millions of customers.

According to Michael Trela, senior director of the Satellite Connectivity Group at Apple, the Emergency SOS via satellite is a critical feature that allows users to have two-way messaging with emergency services when they have no cellular or Wi-Fi coverage. This feature has been saving lives since its launch in the U.S. and Canada in November 2021 and has since expanded to several European countries. Trela emphasized the impact of the technology rather than the technology itself and shared an example of how the feature was used to rescue five people whose fishing boat capsized in Key West, Florida.

Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite has already saved many lives around the world. Michael Trela mentioned an example of how it helped a fishing boat capsized in Key West, Florida, where a person used Emergency SOS to contact local emergency services and all five people were rescued. Another example took place in Alaska, where a snowmobile rider activated Emergency SOS and their GPS coordinates were relayed to the local authorities, who deployed the search and rescue team and found the user without incident. Additionally, in California, a couple survived a car accident after Fields’ iPhone detected a vehicular crash and sent a message with Emergency SOS via satellite to emergency call centers, and emergency responders were able to locate them. According to Trela, the Alaska state troopers were impressed with the accuracy and completeness of the information included in the initial alert, inspiring one of them to upgrade to an iPhone 14.

The story is interesting because it highlights the real-life impact of Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite feature. One person in Key West, Florida, used the feature to contact emergency services and was rescued along with four others after their fishing boat capsized. In Alaska, a snowmobile rider activated the feature when they got into difficulties in an area without cellular or Wi-Fi coverage, and their GPS coordinates were relayed to local authorities who found and rescued them. In Southern California, a couple’s car plunged over a 300-foot cliff, and the iPhone’s Emergency SOS via satellite feature alerted emergency services, who rescued them within 30 to 40 minutes. What’s notable is that the Loyola Marymount University scheduling coordinator who survived the accident in California wasn’t even aware of the feature until after the accident, but credits it with saving her life.

It is definitely a valuable lesson, and one that we should all keep in mind. Emergency SOS via satellite is just one example of how technology can have a significant impact on our lives. It is important to appreciate the role that technology plays in our lives, and to stay informed about the latest developments and applications. With Emergency SOS via satellite, Apple has demonstrated its commitment to using technology for good, and it will be interesting to see how this service evolves and expands in the future.