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U Maryland Lab Teams with TeleCommunication Systems on Next Gen 911

An applied sciences lab at the University of Maryland will be working with a global mobile communications company to create new applications specifically for public safety. Among the projects under consideration: an enhanced 911 (E911) mobile app that could eventually be used for emergencies on or off campus. Maryland Information and Network Dynamics (MIND) Lab, run by Ashok Agrawala, a professor of computer science, is setting up the collaboration with TeleCommunication Systems, a company that develops and sells services for E911, text messaging, commercial location, and wireless communications.

The two organizations will specifically be exploring technologies related to next-generation 911. This initiative, promoted by the National Emergency Number Association, envisions upgrading the emergency service dispatch number to exploit the features of new devices and their capabilities, such as roaming geo-location.

One project under consideration is an extension of MIND Lab's M-Urgency alert tool. Starting in September 2011, this iPhone app will allow a student on U Maryland's campus to have a "virtual escort." The app connects the phone to the campus police and transmits a real-time video taken by the caller's smartphone camera. Making this work in the wider world, according to a statement, will require standards development, industry relations and contacts, and an understanding of the current E911 networks, aspects of the project that TCS said it can provide. Once applications are developed, TCS can also market and sell them.

"This collaboration offers the best of both worlds where a leading emergency communications company like TCS can leverage the creativity and innovations of highly trained academics, and a university lab like ours can get the benefits of the company's real-world experience," said Agrawala. "Together we will create proof-of-concept emergency services applications that will eventually become commercially adopted to help protect and save lives."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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