The Daily Telegraph

Skiers’ Apple watches make false crash calls

US emergency services hit by wave of ‘ghost’ alerts as turns on slopes trigger over-sensitive technology

- By Jamie Johnson US CORRESPOND­ENT

US POLICE say they are being flooded with emergency calls sent from Apple Watches that are mistaking people skiing for those involved in car crashes. Despite extensive testing, it appears that the body movements of skiers are triggering the alert system. This can be from quick accelerati­on, hard stops or a light fall on the slopes.

The rise in automatic 911 calls from the device has prompted emergency services to complain to Apple about limited emergency resources being needlessly diverted, forcing the company to send representa­tives to investigat­e and roll out a new software update.

In Colorado, New York and Pennsylvan­ia there have been reports of call centres struggling under the volume of activity. “My whole day is managing crash notificati­ons,” said Trina Dummer, interim director of emergency services in Colorado’s Summit County.

In the week from Jan 13 to Jan 22, they received 185 calls, roughly twice as many as in past winters.

She told The New York Times that the sheer number was threatenin­g to “desensitis­e dispatcher­s and divert limited resources from true emergencie­s”.

New York’s Greene County 911 centre, which covers ski resorts in Windham and the Hunter Mountains, has seen a 22 per cent surge in false calls compared with last year.

The technology – which is present in the iphone 14 and 14 Pro, and the Apple Watch Series 8, SE, and Ultra – has been credited with helping incapacita­ted car crash victims and mountain hikers who have fallen down steep cliffs by automatica­lly dialling emergency services when it detects a sudden collision.

The watch buzzes and sends a loud warning alerting the user that a call is being placed to 911, and it provides 10 seconds in which to cancel the call.

However, “a lot of people don’t feel it or hear it”, said Brett Loeb, emergency services communicat­ions director in Pitkin County, Colorado. This is likely to be because of the layers of clothing worn while skiing.

Pennsylvan­ia’s Carbon County Communicat­ions Centre, which covers the Jack Frost, Big Boulder and Blue Mountain ski areas, now takes as many as 20 automated crash detection calls a day.

In Aspen, Colorado, the situation has become so serious that signs have been posted at ski resports asking people to either update theirsoftw­are or disable the service, to “prevent unnecessar­y trips to the slopes” by ambulances.

A spokesman for Apple said updates would “optimise” the technology and reduce the number of false calls.

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