Monday, January 9, 2012

App Gives Real-Time Video to Dispatchers

This fall, students at the University of Maryland in College Park, MD will be able to download a smart phone application through the university's protected intranet.  Available September 13, 2012, the app called M-Urgency will allow students and faculty to use their smartphones to stream real-time video footage and audio from ongoing medical and emergency situations directly to the University of Maryland Police Department. The dispatcher will be able to converse with the person while dispatching additional support.  The app uses the GPS technology within the smartphone to pinpoint for police the exact location of the situation.  University police dispatchers and ground units will be able to access this real-time information while the incident is going on and have access to direct communication from the caller as well.

Maj. Jay Gruber, head of the Technology Services Unit for Public Safety, says, "If we get four or five M-Urgency calls that show a fire glowing out the window of one of the sorority houses in College Park," then responders could see which side of the house is on fire and what type of fire it is. "It's huge - you can prep your mind and your crew before you get to the scene."

This app is a first of its kind and was developed as a joint project between the University of Maryland Department of Computer Science, the University of Maryland Police Department, and the University of Maryland Office of Information Technology.  The app is the product of over ten years worth of research and development of in wireless communications.  When it debuts in September 2012, it will only be available for Android 2.2 or higher phones.  However, the departments that created the app are currently on the development of an app that works on other platforms as well.  As well as moving it to other platforms, they are hoping to add features such as pin-pointing the GPS to within 10 feet of the person's location.

Although the app was designed for the University of Maryland, the University of Maryland Police Department is currently trying to get the surrounding community of College Park to get on board with the project as well.  Currently, they are uncertain as to whether the cost of the set-up (a one time fee of approximately $100,000) is worth the additional assistance it will give to the dispatchers in the area.

Professor Ashok Agrawala, of the computer science department, was a major contributor to the research and development of this app and technology.  Agrawala says, "The technology, the way it was developed, can be deployed by anyone anywhere."  Agrawala and the University of Maryland have been contacted by several college campuses throughout the United States looking to assist in the development of a similar app for their college campuses as they feel that it will greatly assist in the public safety of their students and faculty.

Is it possible that soon all police departments throughout the United States will be deploying a similar app in the future?

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