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​The future of Triple Zero: SMS, video calling and social media

Australians could soon be accessing emergency services via text, video call or social media thanks to a review into the Triple Zero phone service.

Image by Jason Ilagan, CC BY-ND 2.0

The Department of Communications is conducting a review into the future of Australia's Triple Zero emergency phone service, with a view towards integrating new technology and allowing new access methods.

The Federal Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull announced the review, saying it would ensure the emergency operator could meet "changing community expectations" and "take advantage of new technologies" into the future.

"The current arrangements for the national Triple Zero operator were established when voice calls from landlines dominated the telecommunications landscape," he said. "Now around two-thirds of calls come from mobile phones.

"Communications technology continues to advance, presenting new and exciting opportunities to improve the existing voice arrangements as well as new ways for telecommunications users to access assistance."

The review discussion paper highlights the potential advantages of delivering the Triple Zero service via new media forms, including SMS, social media, automated devices (such as pacemakers or health monitors) and video calls.

In the latter case, the Department offers the example of the 'Next Generation 911' initiative in the United States -- a new IP-based system "that will allow that country's emergency call system to accommodate photos, videos and text messages, in addition to voice calls".

Turnbull also drew attention to local services that were offering Australians more technologically-advanced ways of accessing emergency services.

"Services such as the Emergency + Smartphone App, which displays the phone's GPS coordinates for the caller to read out to the emergency operator, is a great example of how modern technology can be used to improve the Triple Zero service," he said.

Submissions will be accepted until August 22, 2014 with the report due in March 2015.