Case Emergency RESPONSE CENTRE AGENCY

Cooperation between Digia and the Emergency Response Centre Agency has seen the 112 Suomi app grow from an emergency geolocation tool into a common safety platform for a number of authorities

In order to improve geolocation during emergency calls, the Emergency Response Centre Agency launched the 112 Suomi app, which it had developed in collaboration with Digia. Since its release in 2015, years of cooperation have seen the app evolve into a comprehensive common safety platform for the authorities that has been downloaded more than two million times.

The concept for the 112 Suomi app arose from the Emergency Response Centre Agency’s need to determine the location of people in need of help as accurately as possible. Could advances in smartphone technology also be harnessed in emergency geolocation? This thought led to the concept of an app that would show a caller their own location data.

The idea was developed with the Emergency Response Centre Agency’s own experts. In the end, they decided to add a feature that transmitted the caller’s location directly to the Emergency Response Centre Agency’s information system via the app. Digia was selected as the supplier for this project, as Digia and the Emergency Response Centre Agency had worked together before and their existing supply agreement enabled this kind of development.

“It was an easy choice for us, as Digia was already familiar with our operating environment,” says Marko Nieminen, Head of Operational Department at the Emergency Response Centre Agency, who has been involved in the planning of the project from the outset.

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We’ve established a very smooth and practical cooperation model with Digia for developing the app. This has enabled us to successfully add new features to the app even when schedules are tight.

Marko Nieminen, Head of Operational Department,  Emergency Response Centre Agency

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Continual development creates a comprehensive safety platform

Although the app initially focused on enhancing emergency geolocation, the goal was always to develop a versatile service package that would provide comprehensive services to a variety of authorities. For example, the 112 Suomi app currently provides the telephone numbers of other authorities, regional traffic bulletins, and emergency announcements. You can also use the app to check things such as the location of the nearest defibrillator. At the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, a link to a coronavirus symptom assessment was also quickly added to the app.

“Thanks to continuous development, the app has become much more versatile. It’s now the official channel for emergency announcements, and plays a much more significant role in a variety of other communications,” says Nieminen.

The app has always been designed with an eye to future development needs, and can therefore be easily and flexibly expanded. Reliability and dependability are also important for a civic app. For these and other reasons, the app has been built on cloud platforms.

Ideas in the app’s development path are being continually and systematically taken forward. When new development ideas arise, the Emergency Response Centre Agency first determines their suitability and appropriateness for the app package. The feasibility of implementing the idea will then be discussed with Digia. Testing and release are also carefully planned in collaboration with Digia.

“We’ve established a very smooth and practical cooperation model with Digia for developing the app. This has enabled us to successfully add new features to the app even when schedules are tight,” says Nieminen.

Significant benefits for society

The original goal was to get a few hundred thousand downloads for the app during the first few years. However, the app was surprisingly popular and made a huge breakthrough even though it was mainly marketed on social media. By 2021, the app had been downloaded more than two million times and is, according to Nieminen, one of the best-known official apps in Finland.

The app has also been very beneficial to the Emergency Response Centre Agency. In the majority of cases, the location of an emergency caller can be accurately determined without further action. This has meant faster help for those in need, and has also made it easier for those working at emergency rescue centres. The app has also had some surprising benefits that no one could have imagined at its launch

“It appears that adding service numbers to the app has reduced the number of unnecessary calls to the emergency rescue centre, as people have been able to find the correct number more easily,” says Nieminen.

App development is still ongoing with Digia, and Nieminen says there are still plenty of ideas on the list. A pilot has recently been launched to test a service that enables emergency calls to be made in sign language via a video link to a remote interpreter at the Interpreter Service for the Disabled. The interpreter makes a voice call to the Emergency Response Centre operator, who then processes the emergency call with the interpreter’s aid.

The Emergency Response Centre Agency is also involved in the Pan-European Mobile Emergency Apps (PEMEA) project, which is being organised by the European Emergency Number Association (EENA). The goal is to create architecture that will enable the emergency geolocation apps used by all participating countries to function across Europe. The service is already working in Finland and Italy.

“Thanks to this project, Finns can use the 112 Suomi app when travelling in Europe. If they make an emergency call abroad, their location will also be shared automatically with the local emergency response centre,” says Nieminen.

The 112 Suomi app’s services:

  • Emergency geolocation
  • Emergency announcements
  • Traffic bulletins
  • Service numbers for authorities, such as the Police’s customer service number, Air-sea rescue, and Nollalinja (a helpline for domestic violence).
  • Emergency call in sign language
  • Coronavirus symptom assessment
  • Location of nearest defibrillator
  • Sending a travel notification to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs
  • How to recognise the symptoms of a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)