Inside watchOS 3: Apple Watch's new 'Emergency SOS' call feature could save your life

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited July 2016
The upcoming watchOS 3 update for Apple Watch brings a number of new functions to the wearable device's side button, including quick access to "Medical ID" data for first responders, and a new "Emergency SOS" function that can call 9-1-1 and notify loved ones.




Holding down the side button on an Apple Watch running watchOS 3 still brings up the ability to power down the device. But there are two more options that users can slide across to select: Medical ID and SOS.

A user's Medical ID data is entered through the Health app on a connected iPhone, and is then automatically shared with the Apple Watch. Information such as the wearer's name, date of birth, weight, height, blood type, and whether they are an organ donor is presented.

Apple has also offered Medical ID access on the iPhone for first responders since iOS 8 in 2014. The expansion to the Apple Watch is yet another way that medical personnel can access crucial information in a time of need.

watchOS 3 also includes a new Emergency SOS option that can be swiped after holding the side button for six seconds. Using it causes the Apple Watch to attempt to call emergency services, either via cellular if an iPhone is connected and has signal, or over Wi-Fi directly.



Users can also add SOS contacts via the Apple Watch app on an iPhone running iOS 10 or later. Anyone added here will be notified with a message saying the wearer placed an emergency call.

In addition, SOS contacts are also provided with the Apple Watch owner's current location. Contacts will also be provided with updates as the wearer's location changes.

Once the crisis has been resolved, the Apple Watch user can select "Stop Sharing" within the SOS notification.

SOS location sharing even works if the user has Location Services disabled on their Apple Watch. With watchOS 3, Location Services will be temporarily enabled in the case of an Emergency SOS, allowing contacts to stay up to date with the wearer's location.

Both watchOS 3 and iOS 10 are currently in beta and are available to developers for testing. The free software updates are scheduled to launch this fall, likely in late September.

For more on the future of Apple Watch, see AppleInsider's Inside watchOS 3 series, parts of which are linked below:

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    mj webmj web Posts: 918member
    As an old geezer, this is the first feature Watch has offered that would lead me to consider purchasing it. Design-wise, I consider Watch a chunky and clunky eyesore. But if it could save my life, in addition to providing some geeky jockey features, I might just bite. My guess is Apple will release a higher end sleeker model in 2017 and keep the chunky edition as its base model.
  • Reply 2 of 19
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    this looks sweet.

    tho i have no problem w/ the watch's design...i went to not wearing a watch in over 20 years, to wearing the stainles steel daily -- the functionality is just worth it for me.
    cyberzombietechnologistanantksundaramjbdragonbrucemc
  • Reply 3 of 19
    this looks sweet.

    tho i have no problem w/ the watch's design...i went to not wearing a watch in over 20 years, to wearing the stainles steel daily -- the functionality is just worth it for me.
    Ditto. Wearing it overnight as well...and in the shower/ocean/pool when on vacation...it leaves my wrist 1-2 hours per evening (or morning if I've done little enough for it to last > 24 hours...)
    jbdragon
  • Reply 4 of 19
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,949member
    I'm wondering if this feature will be better than LifeAlert and other like systems. If it only calls 911 and a list of people on your contacts, how will 911 know to send someone? LifeAlert calls the user to determine if they need help and without an answer, they call 911; all with the press of a single button. They also have a fall indicator that works without pressing the button. Does Apple's software include that feature? It might be difficult to separate an accidental fall from an intentional dive but maybe there could (or is) an SOS setting for older or special needs people that could activate or deactivate a fall feature. The actual method by which Apple Watch SOS works will either make this feature a must have replacement to products like LifeAlert who charge by the month or a half-hearted attempt. 
    robertwalter
  • Reply 5 of 19
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,821member
    rob53 said:
    I'm wondering if this feature will be better than LifeAlert and other like systems. If it only calls 911 and a list of people on your contacts, how will 911 know to send someone? LifeAlert calls the user to determine if they need help and without an answer, they call 911; all with the press of a single button. They also have a fall indicator that works without pressing the button. Does Apple's software include that feature? It might be difficult to separate an accidental fall from an intentional dive but maybe there could (or is) an SOS setting for older or special needs people that could activate or deactivate a fall feature. The actual method by which Apple Watch SOS works will either make this feature a must have replacement to products like LifeAlert who charge by the month or a half-hearted attempt. 
    I have little doubt that even if such features are not initially present, it will evolve to include those.
    robertwalter
  • Reply 6 of 19
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,318member
    rob53 said:
    I'm wondering if this feature will be better than LifeAlert and other like systems. If it only calls 911 and a list of people on your contacts, how will 911 know to send someone? LifeAlert calls the user to determine if they need help and without an answer, they call 911; all with the press of a single button. They also have a fall indicator that works without pressing the button. Does Apple's software include that feature? It might be difficult to separate an accidental fall from an intentional dive but maybe there could (or is) an SOS setting for older or special needs people that could activate or deactivate a fall feature. The actual method by which Apple Watch SOS works will either make this feature a must have replacement to products like LifeAlert who charge by the month or a half-hearted attempt. 
    I don't see Life Alert being able to do anything the Watch couldn't do better. Im seriously thinking about getting the watch for my mom rather than a Life Alert device, because she's more apt to be less offended, and more likely to wear it.

    My biggest concern is that she will reliably charge it, and I'm not sure she would wear it to bed, for when she gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. That's where Life Alert has some advantages. 

    I also wonder if the SOS feature basically confirms a cellular radio in the next watch. There could be liability issues if the person wearing the watch isn't expressly aware that the watch won't be able to contact 911 without being in range of a phone. So if someone goes out jogging without their phone, as advertised by Apple, and breaks their leg, then they won't be able to use SOS. Of course, even if they have a cellular radio, there's no guarantee they'll be able to access a signal either ... but still.
    patchythepiraterobertwalter
  • Reply 7 of 19
    My biggest concern with this is how similar it currently is to being able to force quit apps. 

    Is there a new force quit process in 3.0? Or will we have a lot of people with frozen watches and ambulances outside?
  • Reply 8 of 19
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,949member
    mac_128 said:
    rob53 said:
    I'm wondering if this feature will be better than LifeAlert and other like systems. If it only calls 911 and a list of people on your contacts, how will 911 know to send someone? LifeAlert calls the user to determine if they need help and without an answer, they call 911; all with the press of a single button. They also have a fall indicator that works without pressing the button. Does Apple's software include that feature? It might be difficult to separate an accidental fall from an intentional dive but maybe there could (or is) an SOS setting for older or special needs people that could activate or deactivate a fall feature. The actual method by which Apple Watch SOS works will either make this feature a must have replacement to products like LifeAlert who charge by the month or a half-hearted attempt. 
    I don't see Life Alert being able to do anything the Watch couldn't do better. Im seriously thinking about getting the watch for my mom rather than a Life Alert device, because she's more apt to be less offended, and more likely to wear it.

    My biggest concern is that she will reliably charge it, and I'm not sure she would wear it to bed, for when she gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. That's where Life Alert has some advantages. 

    I also wonder if the SOS feature basically confirms a cellular radio in the next watch. There could be liability issues if the person wearing the watch isn't expressly aware that the watch won't be able to contact 911 without being in range of a phone. So if someone goes out jogging without their phone, as advertised by Apple, and breaks their leg, then they won't be able to use SOS. Of course, even if they have a cellular radio, there's no guarantee they'll be able to access a signal either ... but still.
    My dad finally was persuaded to get Life Alert and we'll take all the false alarms because you never know when he'll actually need help. That said, Life Alert does have people monitoring his device, at least while it's in the house. His system includes some kind of base station that actually makes the call. SOS looks like it would be better because it's usable away from that base station. My dad has an iPhone but my in-laws, who really need it, have feature(less) phones even though they could easily afford an iPhone. My in-laws both finally got hearing aides and they have to regularly change the stupid tiny batteries. They also take them out at night, opening the battery compartment so the battery doesn't drain. In order for older people to really buy into SOS, it needs, as you say, to be totally independent of anything else (where are contacts stored? must still require an iPhone unless Watch can at least store SOS contacts), operate wherever there's a cellular or specialized radio signal (or WiFi), and have the ability to detect falls and detect heart beat issues. It would also be nice if Apple could get the Watch approved as a medical device with the capability of monitoring implanted defibrillator/pacemaker devices. At a few hundred dollars, it would be an inexpensive medical device.
  • Reply 9 of 19
    73dray73dray Posts: 12member
    Well now I know why one of my iphone apps was rejected. 
    fastasleep
  • Reply 10 of 19
    boeyc15boeyc15 Posts: 986member
    Can one use Siri via the watch to just say - call _______(fill in contact name)? Or 911?
    Life alert asks if you are ok before calling 911. Using Siri to call a contact is pretty close to life alert in that respect. Granted need to be able to speak vs physically push a button.
    So now can do either or?
    One possible concern is false calls due to 'butt dial's', i.e. Did not mean to call. I've had a watchs get hung up on clothes or weird positions on the wrist etc. 911 does not take kindly to false alarms or if you realize that and hang up with out telling them it was a false alarm.

    Should be interesting. What could go wrong? /s
    edited July 2016
  • Reply 11 of 19
    mj web said:
    As an old geezer, this is the first feature Watch has offered that would lead me to consider purchasing it. Design-wise, I consider Watch a chunky and clunky eyesore. But if it could save my life, in addition to providing some geeky jockey features, I might just bite. My guess is Apple will release a higher end sleeker model in 2017 and keep the chunky edition as its base model.
    My 83-y/o mom has been rocking one since launch week. 

    The fact that she can call for help if she falls, or can answer a call without running to find her phone were what sold her. 

    She also uses it as much as she can for Apple Pay and for adjusting her MFi BT hearing aid. 

    She he is keenly looking forward to the SOS feature but thinks it should notify contacts on an opt out basis and should have a fall-/impact-detector that triggers an sos call unless the wearer responds to a "dismiss query".  She also would like to see fibrillation detection and O2-monitoring added. (Not that se needs it now but she's getting older.)

    She bought a 42mm grey sport w/ apple care, it cost 450$. A Red Cross SOS button, with a very limited feature set, leases for ca 55$/mo.  At this rate -as just an emergency device- the watch paid for itself (vs the RC device) in under 9 months. 
  • Reply 12 of 19
    For some users I can see there being tremendous value in having a feature like this, for users like me I'm hopeful that it can be turned off.

    I don't say this to pour water on the idea, but rather from my personal experience using the watch. As I train with my apple watch it is not uncommon for my training straps to push this button for long enough to start an SOS.

    I'm so familiar with this happening that when I watched the SOS feature being presented I immediately realised that it is going to be a problem for me.

    Meanwhile this feature adds credit to the idea that the next watch will have cellular. It's insufficient that this can work through wifi in the absence of a phone, since wifi is rarely available outside of most peoples' homes, more so when travelling. (Yet Apple touted how well it works while travelling - the logical extension of this being that the feature would gain the required usefulness from the Watch having independent cellular.)
    edited July 2016
  • Reply 13 of 19
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,014member
    boeyc15 said:
    Can one use Siri via the watch to just say - call _______(fill in contact name)? Or 911?
    Life alert asks if you are ok before calling 911. Using Siri to call a contact is pretty close to life alert in that respect. Granted need to be able to speak vs physically push a button.
    So now can do either or?
    One possible concern is false calls due to 'butt dial's', i.e. Did not mean to call. I've had a watchs get hung up on clothes or weird positions on the wrist etc. 911 does not take kindly to false alarms or if you realize that and hang up with out telling them it was a false alarm.

    Should be interesting. What could go wrong? /s
    Are you at all familiar with the SOS function? Do you wear an Apple Watch? Apparently  not. First, you have to hold the side button for 3s. After that, you get a menu and have to select to call 911 and swipe.

    The odds of a 'butt dial' are less than somebody's the Life Alert pendant unknowingly falling on the floor and activating. Not a concern except for someone who chooses to create specious arguments.

    You raise some interesting and intelligent points. /s

    nolamacguy
  • Reply 14 of 19
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,014member

    For some users I can see there being tremendous value in having a feature like this, for users like me I'm hopeful that it can be turned off.

    I don't say this to pour water on the idea, but rather from my personal experience using the watch. As I train with my apple watch it is not uncommon for my training straps to push this button for long enough to start an SOS.

    I'm so familiar with this happening that when I watched the SOS feature being presented I immediately realised that it is going to be a problem for me.

    Meanwhile this feature adds credit to the idea that the next watch will have cellular. It's insufficient that this can work through wifi in the absence of a phone, since wifi is rarely available outside of most peoples' homes, more so when travelling. (Yet Apple touted how well it works while travelling - the logical extension of this being that the feature would gain the required usefulness from the Watch having independent cellular.)
    You say you wear an Apple Watch? Really? Do you actually have any idea how SOS works? Pushing a button doesn't start an SOS. You don't have to worry about turning it off. Just don't turn SOS on unless you need it. It's a two step process. 

    SOS does nothing to "add credit" that the next watch will have cellular. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. Cellular will eat up a battery. If Apple puts a cellular radio in a Watch, it will be an option as in the cellular iPads, and it won't be anytime soon. Apple won't be in a hurry to produce a Watch with a four hour battery life. Maybe in Gen 3.

    "I'm so familiar with this happening that when I watched the SOS feature being presented I immediately realised that it is going to be a problem for me."

    What the hell are you training for? High Buffoonery?
    You're "training" causes you to press the side button for 3s and then swipe the SOS menu when it comes up? Maybe you need a personal trainer to work on basic motor skills. Cause your training wrong.
    nolamacguy
  • Reply 15 of 19
    Good idea - have had my Apple Watch since launch and could have used this feature last February.
    Life Alert does have a monthly fee - think it starts around 15.00 - so the call feature could save out of pocket expense.
    I pressed the side button after reading the above and it was about 2 seconds for the screen to come up - i'm assuming voice activation would be simultaneously activated on the iPhone at the same time with this feature as added back up so 1st responders can hear you?
    This is why i LOVE APPLE - they keep on with innovations that might seem like updates but are game changers for our lives. <3
  • Reply 16 of 19
    wozwozwozwoz Posts: 211member
    OTOH, if you are looking at your Apple Watch while crossing the street, your watch might kill you.
  • Reply 17 of 19
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,526member
    rob53 said:
    mac_128 said:
    I don't see Life Alert being able to do anything the Watch couldn't do better. Im seriously thinking about getting the watch for my mom rather than a Life Alert device, because she's more apt to be less offended, and more likely to wear it.

    My biggest concern is that she will reliably charge it, and I'm not sure she would wear it to bed, for when she gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. That's where Life Alert has some advantages. 

    I also wonder if the SOS feature basically confirms a cellular radio in the next watch. There could be liability issues if the person wearing the watch isn't expressly aware that the watch won't be able to contact 911 without being in range of a phone. So if someone goes out jogging without their phone, as advertised by Apple, and breaks their leg, then they won't be able to use SOS. Of course, even if they have a cellular radio, there's no guarantee they'll be able to access a signal either ... but still.
    My dad finally was persuaded to get Life Alert and we'll take all the false alarms because you never know when he'll actually need help. That said, Life Alert does have people monitoring his device, at least while it's in the house. His system includes some kind of base station that actually makes the call. SOS looks like it would be better because it's usable away from that base station. My dad has an iPhone but my in-laws, who really need it, have feature(less) phones even though they could easily afford an iPhone. My in-laws both finally got hearing aides and they have to regularly change the stupid tiny batteries. They also take them out at night, opening the battery compartment so the battery doesn't drain. In order for older people to really buy into SOS, it needs, as you say, to be totally independent of anything else (where are contacts stored? must still require an iPhone unless Watch can at least store SOS contacts), operate wherever there's a cellular or specialized radio signal (or WiFi), and have the ability to detect falls and detect heart beat issues. It would also be nice if Apple could get the Watch approved as a medical device with the capability of monitoring implanted defibrillator/pacemaker devices. At a few hundred dollars, it would be an inexpensive medical device.
    I urge you to spend the money for anything iPhone or life alert that will help your senior loved ones.  I live in FL and my 80 year old dad live in TX.   Two years ago he fell and broke his hip.   He couldn't move at all despite the old land line phone was less than 6 feet away.    He laid on the floor over 18 hours and was only found after I called the local police since I could not get a hold of him.    He's in assisted living ok but no where near as strong or mobile as before the fall.   (I felt like we were just like the life alert commercial).  Unfortunately he isn't a technology person and didn't like having a cell feature phone like the Jitterbug my mom had before passing. Hopefully this won't happen to your love ones.   P.S. I do like the JitterBug even if a little pricey.
  • Reply 18 of 19
    scottjdscottjd Posts: 60member
    The data displayed is good, but a custom line would also be nice to add critical conditions like Type 1 Diabetic, or POTS, heart conditions. Blood type is good for trauma but I'm more likely to suffer something else like the mentioned examples then a trauma were I need blood. Blood won't help me if my sugar is low, or if my heart is messing up. Hopefully they will allow a few more lines of data that can be scrolled down or swiped down to see all the information. It doesn't need to be a ton do lines, or the whole medical history. Just life threatening conditions. Maybe even an Med alert ID number since they have everything else a fist responder and hostile would need to know, a simple phone call to the Med ID call center, give the ID # and they would know every critical thing they need to know including leathal medication allergies that could worsen the condition of the patient when being treated if they are not thinking or not conscious.
  • Reply 19 of 19
    scottjdscottjd Posts: 60member
    boeyc15 said:
    Can one use Siri via the watch to just say - call _______(fill in contact name)? Or 911?
    Life alert asks if you are ok before calling 911. Using Siri to call a contact is pretty close to life alert in that respect. Granted need to be able to speak vs physically push a button.
    So now can do either or?
    One possible concern is false calls due to 'butt dial's', i.e. Did not mean to call. I've had a watchs get hung up on clothes or weird positions on the wrist etc. 911 does not take kindly to false alarms or if you realize that and hang up with out telling them it was a false alarm.

    Should be interesting. What could go wrong? /s
    I've had the watch since the beginning. I've never see the power down come up by accident. I do get a lot of screen shots on my phone from hitting both buttons when adjusting the watch position on my wrist. But I don't think false alarms will be an issue with this. Not only do you have to hold down the main button (and it's never accidentally happened) but then it will require a second interaction to select the SOS. Have you even heard of someone accidentally turning off the watch, it's the same two actions that will be needed according to this article. If it changes before final release, well we won't know until it's released. But if this article is accurate, and that's a 50/50 chance since I've seen wrong data before on this site, then I don't think it will be an issue.
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