University Developing App for Faster 911 Emergency Response

September 16, 2011

A free Android app called M-Urgency currently being developed and undergoing testing could potentially reshape the way 911 emergency requests are sent.

The app essentially takes advantage of Android devices’ GPS sensors, video cameras, and microphones to relay information to 911 emergency response teams.

The M-Urgency app is being developed by the University of Maryland (UMD) in College Park in collaboration with the the university’s police department. Computer science professor Ashok Agrawala heads the team of students developing the Android application. A version for the iPhone is also being worked on.

The development team made the M-Urgency app available last September 13 to about 100 selected students for a closed operational pilot testing.

UMD police chief David Mitchell told WTOP that the app’s user can call for help by simply pressing a button on the phone and the phone broadcasts important information directly to the police.

“Immediately our 911 center will receive audio and video from your phone, as well as the exact GPS location of where you are,” he said. The 911 dispatcher can then relay the images, audio, video, and GPS location data to emergency response personnel.

Mitchell also said the app can be used even in non-emergency situations. For example, it can be used by students to request for remote police monitoring (remote police escort of some sort) on their way back to their residences after studying out late. “We’ll be able to monitor their whereabouts, see everything they’re seeing, hear everything they’re hearing while they’re going about their way back to their dorm room,” said Mitchell.

The developers plan to initially limit the use of the app to those with a university ID, however there are also plans of making the app available to other College Park residents, as well as possible city-wide adoption.

Mitchell also noted that no one has voiced any opposition towards the app yet. He also assured the public that the app would not be Big Brother that closely monitors everyone’s activity. “You need to download the app. It’s free of charge to all our students here,” he said.

What do you think of the M-Urgency concept?

Image credit: Maryland Information and Network Dynamics Laboratory, Alibaba.com

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