Apple recently filed a patent for a more discreet way to contact 911 using fingerprint technology.

Most smartphones can contact emergency services without being unlocked. However, the patent says, it could be “readily apparent to someone watching” and “may not be practical.”

If the patented technology is used in future iPhones, users would predetermine a fingerprint or a sequence of touches to contact emergency services.

For example, a user could use her thumb to unlock the phone on a regular basis and set her index finger as the emergency indicator to call 911. If this user was ever in need of emergency services, she could place her index finger on the scanner and 911 would be alerted without it being apparent on the phone screen. A sequence of fingerprints can also be used to call 911.

Similarly, a sequence of motions or touches – like pinching or pressing hard on the screen – can be predetermined instead. A user can set the sequence before, and if he uses that sequence in a predetermined amount of time with a certain amount of force, the phone would alert 911.

When this feature is used, it gives emergency responders the location of the phone, and could also provide livestream video or audio, according to the patent. It could also delete sensitive information stored on the phone.

It is unclear if this technology will be used in future iPhones. Bloomberg News, citing an unnamed person, said Apple may not use fingerprint scanners in the next iPhone and instead could replace the feature with facial recognition.

By Madeline Purdue | USA Today