This page reports the progress with the M-Urgency project. Over the period of last few weeks the focus has been mainly on exploring some related work, addressing the design issues of the system and performing an initial study on how acceptable/successful a system of this kind would be. This progress report discusses these issues in detail in the following sections.

Related Work

There has been effort put forth enhancing the emergency system like 911. The efforts range from improving the quality of the service to providing better information to the emergency responders. From the spectrum of these efforts, the focus of M-Urgency has been on providing better contextual information to the emergency responders which enables them to be better prepared for the situation and can provide better efficient and effective service.

Connie White et. al. [1] recognize the extreme popularity of social network sites today and that they can be employed in the context of emergency service. Considering the open nature of the social networks, they can be effective in creating awareness, preparedness and sharing of some critical information but contradict the nature of how 911 services work today where maximum confidentiality is maintained. NG-911 [2], the next generation 911 service operates on Internet protocol enabled emergency service communications network infrastructure. The focus here is to establish better interoperability among the emergency call centres, fire and rescue unit, law enforcement department and other emergency services. A major accomplishment of NG 911 has been in establishing a centralized approach for receiving an emergency from anywhere in the USA and routing the call to the appropriate call centre based on the location provided by the mobile vendor. E-911 [3], enhanced 911 has enabled making emergency calls through voice over IP (VoIP), providing the location information and call back number. There have been other attempts to provide location services during emergency calls as in [4] and [5]. In M-Urgency, we attempt to take it a step further by providing real-time location as the incident/user may not be static.

I did not find in the literature any contribution towards incorporating video streaming with emergency calls which we consider a major enhancement and extremely effective means of providing information about the scene to the emergency personnel. And incorporating the idea of social/human computing wherein a user from the near vicinity of the incident scene could provide information on demand, including the video stream, would be highly beneficial for the emergency personnel. This effort aligns with the overall objectives of [6][7] and the Community Response Grid, an initiative of the HCIL Lab at University of Maryland.


For the work in the scope of this course, I focus on the two main components of the M-Urgency system: the caller application and the Emergency dispatcher application.

Dispatcher Application

The dispatcher application is the centre point and the busiest part of the whole system. The Dispatcher should be enabled to do the following actions:
  • View the incoming calls and interact with them using audio selectively as needed,
  • View the real time location of the caller on a map interface along with the context information about the caller,
  • View the list of available users from the near vicinity of the caller,
  • Group emergency call and the other video streams together, if so desired,
  • View the list of available emergency responders and assign one of them to the emergency situation.
Figure 1 provides a screenshot of the Dispatcher console. The dispatcher is provided with an interactive google map interface as the background. The map responds to mouse gestures for zooming and panning. The incoming emergency calls are listed on the left side of the console along with the video stream which can be by a button click. The right side of the screen provides some important information like the call history and messages meant for the dispatcher. To make optimum use of the screen, the responders’ list and the list of users in the near proximity is displayed on demand. Buttons for the same are provided on the bottom right corner. There are other few components in the dispatcher console which are not significant for the features we are focussing for this course.
Figure 1: Dispatcher Console

Caller ApplicationFigure 2 and 3 provide the screenshots of caller application (before and after making an M-Urgency call respectively). An M-Urgency call can be initiated by simply pressing the “Call M-Urgency” button and an audio/video connection with the dispatcher is established. A button to end the call and exit the application is provided here. The button is designed as a slide button to avoid accidental termination of the call.

The application will be running in the background and is receptive to an invocation by the dispatcher. When the dispatcher locates a user near the vicinity of an incident, he can prompt the user which results in a ringing at the mobile phone. If answered, an audio video connection, like a normal caller is established.

Figure 2: Caller Apllication

Figure 3: Caller Application (after a call is made)

What needs to be done
  • Once the users in the vicinity are listed, a mechanism to initiate a connection with them needs to be designed and implemented.
  • The mechanism to receive such requests has to be designed and implemented at the callers’ end.
  • Mechanism and criteria for detecting a user in the vicinity has to be devised.

Experimental Study
Initial level study
I performed an initial level study of how acceptable and practical a system of this kind can be. I performed some informal and short interviews with:
  • 6 students who are potential users of the system who would be willing to help in case a request is made by the dispatchers
  • UM Police Department system personnel on how practical they find in deploying and maintaining a system of this kind
  • UMPD Dispatchers, who would be at the centre point of the system; on how practical do they think this idea is and their willingness to participate.
I am yet to compile the outcome of the interviews but at the outset I feel I received a positive response from all the three groups, though certain concerns were raised.

Detailed study
UMPD has identified about 38 testers who are testing the pilot of M-Urgency system. I shall be designing an experiment to study the effectiveness, practicality and level of success of the feature of social/human computing in the existing M-Urgency system. I am in the process of designing and performing a study in the next few weeks.


  1. Connie White, Linda Plotnick, Jane Kushma, Starr Roxanne Hiltz, Murray Turoff , “An online social network for emergency management” , International Journal of Emergency Management Issue: Volume 6, Number 3-4 / 2009 Pages: 369 – 382
  2. James Holloway, Elaine Seeman, Margeret o’Hara, “State Agency and Local Next Generation 911 Planning and coordination to Implement State NG 911 and IP Enabled Network Policies”, Pittsburgh Journal of Technology Law and Policies.
  3. Richard Dickinson, Roger Marshall, Steven Helme, “Enhance E911 Locaiton Information using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)”, United States Patent # US 6 940 950 B2, Sept 6th, 2005.
  4. Sayed A.H, Tarighat, A.; Khajehnouri N, Network-based wireless location: Challenges Faced in Developing Techniques for Accurate Wireless Location Information, IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, Vol. 22 Issue 4, 24 – 40, July 2005
  5. Zagami J.M, Parl S.A, Bussgang J.J, Melillo K.D, Providing Universal Location Services Using a Wireless E911 Location Network, IEEE Communications Magazine, 66 -71, April 1998.
  6. Ben Shneiderman and Jennifer Preece, “”, Science Vol. 315, February 2007.
  7. -

11/23/11: Comment (Ben)
The project as a whole is interesting, but my understanding of your contribution for this class is to focus on some form of social contribution - i.e., by having the dispatchers interact with the community of nearby users, and interacting with them, etc. However, your progress report didn't mention any of that. I'm looking forward to seeing how this ends up coming together.