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U Maryland Emergency Alert Technology Links Caller with Campus Police Dispatch

University of Maryland researchers have created a new emergency alert technology for cell phones and PDAs called V911, which they say could help improve campus safety. Created by scientists from the UM Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), the V911 technology is one tool in MyeVyu, a downloadable software package still in prototype for cell phones and PDAs that provides a direct link between the user and campus police dispatch. With the touch of a button, a user in distress can alert campus police of their identity and location, and stream live, GPS-enhanced video and audio.

"MyeVyu is the kind of innovative technology that we can really use to substantially reduce and deter threats to those we are asked to protect," said Kenneth Krouse, the university's chief of police and director of the UM Department of Public Safety. "It seems appropriate that it capitalizes on technologies developed through the university's own resources and assets. It's very much in the spirit of the department's mission, of community and campus service and safety, integrated with quality of life. Everyone who is concerned with security and well being stands to benefit."

The V911 application, created by Ashok Agrawala and a team of researchers and students from the department of computer science, is one of several features in their new MyeVyu system. In addition to immediate contact with police dispatch, MyeVyu permits dispatchers to forward the device's audio and video to any squad car, including additional streams available from nearby security cameras, and automatically records all data streams involved. All of this information is integrated so that first responders can better prepare for the emergency situation as they are on their way to the scene.

In addition to the V911 technology, the MyeVyu program can provide up-to-date campus alert information, one more way to disseminate emergency information to the university community. Already available for iPhone, HTC Pro, and Nokia's N810, the product may soon be available for similar handheld devices.

"We are collaborating closely with campus police, campus transportation, the Office of Information Technology, and facilities management to acquire the necessary operational support and have this technology available to students and personnel as soon as possible," said Agrawala.

MyeVyu and V911 are part of a pilot program on campus called the Mobility Initiative that is designed to see how handheld devices like the iPhone--loaded with advanced technologies like MyeVyu--may be able to improve the education and college experience of students.

Non-security features of MyeVyu include access to real-time campus information like scheduling and information regarding classes, building locations, activities, transit tracking, and schedules.

Agrawala said he and his team next expect to have applications for such things as accessing social networking Web sites and campus event schedules, and mapping handicapped routes from point to point.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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