Students walking back to their dorm room or apartment may feel uneasy if they are alone or it is dark outside. UMD, along with many other colleges and universities, offer university police or student aide escorts that will come and escort the student home. The trouble with this service is that it may take ten to fifteen minutes for the escort to arrive. This time lag sometimes deters students from using the service at all.
The University of Maryland is now developing a free mobile phone application, Escort-M, that offers the user an instant, virtual escort. Using real-time audio and video, campus security employees can watch the user's walk home and respond immediately, "with an accurate picture of unfolding emergencies", says Ashok K. Agrawala. Agrawala is the UMD computer science professor who developed this technology. "The recorded video can be used to broadcast descriptions of suspects, to give dispatchers a sense of how serious a situation is or even to save a panicked 911 caller from having to describe a traumatic event. UMD's system also can locate users in the exact building and room from which theyare callling, using the university's wireless network to place them," claims Agrawala. This technology is effective only on the UMD campus. Used elsewhere will result in a call being made to 911.
This technology comes after the M-Urgency application, which police began to offer earlier in the year. This app offers a fast and technologically advanced way to dial 911. Again, public safety dispatchers will have access to live video, audio and a Global Positioning System. So far, there are about 200 people that have downloaded this app.
May 27, 2012
UMD Researchers Develop a Mobile Phone Application to Escort Students Home
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UMD's Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility, which simulates weightlessness, is one of only two such facilities in the U.S.