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safety first

Apple patents new emergency iPhone feature

With a quick finger scan, Apple wants its users to be able to alert emergency services.

In a patent filed Tuesday with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple describes a new feature which would allow users to call police with the scan of a fingerprint. The new feature would bypass login screens and passwords to send authorities the phone's location. It would also allow for live audio or video to be streamed from the phone to the dispatcher and for personal information stored on the device, like social security numbers or home addresses, to be deleted.

The phone would not display any sign of the user's 911 call, according to the patent. Instead of dialing the individual numbers, a user would pre-designate a fingerprint or a set of fingerprint sequences to trigger emergency services, or even apply a pre-set amount of pressure to the phone screen to call authorities.

Most smartphones, including iPhones, already offer their users a way to dial 911 without unlocking their device. However, Apple pointed out in its patent that someone in a hostile situation may not be able to physically dial in the presence of an attacker.

The company has not announced whether the feature will be available on the next iPhone model or in the next software update.