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UMD M-Urgency App Now Streams iPhone Emergency Info

April 25, 2012

Lee Tune, 301 405 4679 or ltune@umd.edu


 COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland's emergency smartphone application, M-Urgency, becomes available to campus iPhone users today.


The application, which has drawn a great deal of media and public interest since it was first launched to the university community in January as a free app for android phones, is now also available for free download for UMD iPhone users. This safety app 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. Though currently an operational pilot limited to the UMD community, the technology potentially could be applied to any phone and any community across the nation, according to its developers. 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.

David Mitchell, Director of Public Safety and Chief of the University of Maryland Police, says: "The continued hard work and dedication of our IT staff, in partnership with the MIND Lab team, has culminated in the release of the IOS version of M-Urgency. I believe this app has tremendous potential benefit for public safety here on our campus and ultimately for other campuses and other communities."

Professor Agrawala shows off the M-Urgency App to a BBC reporter.Click here to view BBC video.  

 "The development of this technology is a powerful, and unusual, example of a close collaboration between the research and operations arms of a major university," says Agrawala. "University research is usually developed to be pushed out to the world, and only finds widespread use on campus after being widely adopted elsewhere "In this case, we created a technology to serve the safety and security of the university - a community of 50,000, and also as a model for adoption of M-Urgency elsewhere. Certainly, the technology was developed so that it potentially can be deployed by anybody anywhere."

 Students, faculty and staff can use their university ID to download the application from the M-Urgency website.

Then, in the event ofan emergency, they 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, Acting Major Marc Limansky, head of the Technology Services Bureau for Public Safety, says, "If we get four or five M-Urgency calls that show a fire glowing out the window of a residence hall on campus," then dispatchers, and eventually responders, could see exactly what theyre dealing with. "It's huge officers and firefighters can prep their minds before arriving at 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. Work that, for example, has resulted in the decrease of background electronic "noise" in wireless systems that previously made it difficult to pinpoint precise locations.

For the past two plus years the MIND Lab and UMD's Department of Public Safety have been working together to seemlessly integrate the technology into the campus emergency response system.

More M-Urgency functions are in the works, 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.

Other universities and the University System of Maryland have expressed interest in the application.

 Read some past news coverage here:
WUSA-9 Story about M- Urgency
New York Times article on "Apps for Navigating Campus Life"
WTOP-FM Story about M-Urgency
Baltimore Sun Story about M-Urgency


Media Contacts

Professor Ashok Agrawala
Department of Computer Science

Chief David Mitchell
University of Maryland Department of Public Safety (Police)