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Apple adds AI emergency satellite links to eSIM-only iPhone 14

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Apple has added emergency satellite connection and moved to eSIM-only technology for its latest iPhone 14.

The iPhone 14 adds ‘additional custom components’ to allow the phone to send a brief text message via satellite in the event of an emergency. This links to a new dual core accelerometer, gyroscope and microphone to detect a crash from a sharp deceleration and the noise.

The Crash Detection feature detects a severe car crash and automatically dials emergency services when a user is unconscious or unable to reach their iPhone. This builds on existing components, including a barometer which can now detect cabin pressure changes, the GPS for additional input for speed changes, and the microphone, which uses machine learning to recognise loud noises typical of severe car crashes. The AI algorithms were trained by Apple with over a million hours of real-world driving and crash record data provide even better accuracy.

The Crash Detection links to the Emergency SOS via satellite, which combines custom components deeply integrated with software to allow antennas to connect directly to a satellite. This is presumably in the 2GHz S-band, which is close to the existing 4G and 5G bands.

This enables messaging with emergency services when outside of cellular or Wi-Fi coverage, and will be offered for free for two years in the US and Canada, although Apple has not commented on the satellite operator it is working with, although BICS in Belgium has teamed up with the only satellite constellation currently operational. This is run by Lynk Global, which does cover North America.

This follows Google adding satellite capability into its next generation Android 14 operating system. Phone operator T-mobile is also teaming up with SpaceX to provide satellite connection to the next generation of Starlink LEO satellites.

However, satellites in low earth orbit are moving targets with low bandwidth, and it can take minutes for messages to get through. The iPhone front-loads a few vital questions to assess the user’s situation, and shows them where to point their phone to connect to a satellite. The initial questionnaire and follow-up messages are then relayed to centres staffed by Apple‑trained specialists who can call for help on the user’s behalf.

The technology also allows users to manually share their location over satellite with Find My when there is no cellular or Wi-Fi connection when hiking or camping off the grid.

The iPhone14 comes in 6.1in and 6.7in versions, also moves to eSIM, removing the need for a physical SIM card. The eSIM is held in a secure memory and allows multiple numbers and easier moving between numbers and phone services.

“Integrating an eSIM into the iPhone is a logical move, allowing customers to digitally activate or change service plan in a matter of minutes, without having to receive a physical SIM card or visit a store in person. It also means that customers can have multiple numbers linked to their device, which can be from different operators and serve different purposes. For example, one for personal use, one for travel abroad and one for business,” said Luc Vidal, Head of M2M/IoT Business at BICS

“eSIMs make it easier to change providers which will create healthy competition to improve network performance and customer service. As the technology becomes more widely adopted, we will see general service levels improve across the telecom industry.

“Consumers that go abroad a lot may find it cheaper and easier to access a local operator via an eSIM and benefit from local rates rather than roaming with their main provider. It will also provide businesses with this same level of flexibility for employees that have to travel abroad,” he said.

“The telecoms industry is already working on the next step beyond eSIM, iSIM, which is effectively an invisible software solution that is integrated into the processor of a device and will save even more space, power and make it easier to manufacture more connected devices for the internet of things.”

Apple’s move to eSIM is expected to drive adoption across the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Apple’s decision to introduce an eSIM-only version of the iPhone 14 represents a watershed, game-changing moment for seamless connectivity,” said said  Anthony Goonetilleke, Group President of Technology and Head of Strategy at Amdocs. “We’re already seeing momentum towards eSIM across the telecoms sector and we expect this to grow as consumers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and communications service providers increasingly realise the full scale of the next-generation experiences and possibilities unleashed by this exciting new technology.

“On the consumer front, we recently found that 81% of consumers were either actively in favour or open to the idea of an eSIM-only future for smartphones, while 58% wanted their mobile operator to integrate eSIM into their offering. These numbers will only increase after today. Apple’s influence and reach is such that this could be the tipping point for the eSIM revolution,” 

Pre-orders begin Friday, September 9, with availability for iPhone 14 beginning Friday, September 16, and availability for iPhone 14 Plus beginning Friday, October 7.

“Our customers rely on their iPhone every day, and iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus introduce groundbreaking new technologies and important safety capabilities. With the new, larger 6.7-inch display on iPhone 14 Plus, users can enjoy more content onscreen when browsing the web and even more text,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

“Both phones have a powerful new Main camera with a huge leap in low-light performance, advanced connectivity capabilities with 5G and eSIM, and the incredible performance of A15 Bionic, which helps enable even better battery life. All of this, tightly integrated with iOS 16, makes iPhone more essential than ever.”  

www.apple.com; www.bics.com; www.amdocs.com

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