For Immediate Release
January 25, 2012
Contacts: Lee Tune, 301 405 4679 or firstname.lastname@example.org
University of Maryland M-Urgency App Streams Emergency Information
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland's emergency smartphone application, M-Urgency, gets its much-anticipated public launch today, when the app becomes available for free download to the university community. The app -- currently available only for Android phones -- allows students, faculty and staff to instantly share video, audio and location information about their emergency with university police dispatchers.
The M-Urgency app was developed by UMD Computer Science Professor Ashok Agrawala and his team in collaboration with the university's Department of Public Safety. Together they have been conducting a test deployment for some time and are now ready to share the application university-wide. Though currently only an operational pilot program limited to Android phones and the UMD community, the technology potentially could be applied to any phone and any community across the nation, according to its developers. Apps for other phones are planned. The M-Urgency technology is based on Adobe software infrastructure, and the commercial applications are being developed by AlphaTrek, a Maryland company started by Agrawala. Students, faculty and staff can now download the Android application from the M-Urgency website.
"We created this application to not only serve the university - a community of 50,000 - but any city across the nation," Agrawala says. "The technology, the way it is developed, can be deployed by anybody anywhere."
With M-Urgency, anyone with a university ID who downloads the application can transmit audio and video to the Public Safety dispatcher, who will be able to locate the person through the phone's built-in locator tool, whether that is GPS or cell tower triangulation.
"It gives a lot of information that's not easily conveyable by words," Agrawala says.
For example, 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."
The application, the first of its kind in the world, is a culmination of more than a decade's worth of research in wireless communications by Agrawala's Maryland Information and Network Dynamics (MIND) Lab. It has resulted in the decrease of background electronic "noise" in wireless systems that previously made it difficult to pinpoint precise locations.
M-Urgency will be available only to Android users, but Agrawala hopes to expand it to the iPhone and other mobile platforms. In the coming months, he and his team hope to add more functions to the app, including the ability to pinpoint a person's location within 10 feet - which would work inside buildings and could identify the room and floor - based on Wi-Fi routers throughout the campus.
The application's launch, which follows more than two years of work by the MIND Lab and Public Safety, is just the beginning of the project. The University System of Maryland expressed interest in the application after Agrawala and his team met with Chancellor William Kirwan, and other universities have contacted him as well, Agrawala says.
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