Genral Objective:

To develop a social environment where people can contribute to enhance public safety.


Today, we see a trend in which wireless devices have penetrated into the society and mobile phones are being used by a significant portion of the population not only in developed countries but also in developing countries. Roger Entner notes that smartphones will overtake feature phones by 2011 in the US. Smartphones are equipped with sensors like camera, GPS, at the least, which can be utilized in enhancing public safety.

I am developing a system for the University of Maryland Police Department called M-Urgency. It is a public safety application which is a significant advance in how emergency calls are handled. M-Urgency enables a person to establish and audio and a video stream connection with a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), to provide the most precise idea about the situation, along with contextual information including his real-time location, disabilities, special needs etc. Since the emergency personnel are provided with all the contextual information, they are in a position to efficiently provide service accordingly. Further, M-Urgency enables the dispatcher to forward the stream and the contextual information to first responders like a police officer, ambulance, fire engine etc., assigned to handle the call, by a gesture as simple as drag and drop. In this way the responder knows the latest situation as he/she travels to the incident scene.

Specific Objective:I propose to take M-Urgency a step further, to explore how participation from the users of the system can help enhance the public safety situation even further. I plan to extend the system such that users who opt in can help the Dispatchers/ emergency personnel gather more information about the situation. When an emergency situation has been identified in a particular location, the system would enable the Emergency Dispatcher to view the list of users in the close vicinity of the location of emergency. The Dispatcher will be enabled to request information from these users who can provide their interpretation of the situation along with establishing a video and audio stream with the dispatcher (which can be handled as in M-Urgency). This feature may prove very useful for the emergency personnel in situations like a fire incident, a hostage situation, a suspicious terrorist activity etc.

Technical Details:I am using Adobe Flex framework to develop the system and Flash builder 4.5 as the IDE. Flash Media Server is used for the audio and video transmission along with Flash Media Gateway for establishing a SIP connection to make an E-911 call to the police department.

Comment (Ben): This looks good. I am familiar with M-Urgency, and I think your proposed addition for this class is intriguing. You didn't specifically say, but I assume the dispatcher will be able to push requests to the phone, thus notifying the user even if the app isn't running. Clearly you will have design and software engineering work for this project, but how will you validate it? That is, aside from ensuring that the technology works, what can you do in the scope of this class to understand the social issues involved? Finally, you should start looking at the related research. What will you look at that is specific to your work this semester?