- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2009

College campuses could become safer havens with a new cell-phone safety application developed by University of Maryland researchers.

Professors and students at the university’s College Park campus have created software that connects cell-phone users directly to campus police in an emergency, alerting first responders to a student’s identity and location at the touch of a button. Police on the other end will have access to the cell phone’s audio and video signals as well as the closest surveillance camera.

Professor Ashok Agrawala pioneered the MyeVyu software project under the UMD Mobility Initiative program, which was introduced last fall to enhance safety and communication on campus.

The campus slayings at Columbine and Virginia Tech have spurred schools and colleges nationwide to develop new ways of alerting students to dangers. Among the tools available to students are text alerts broadcast on closed-circuit LCD TVs, e-mail alerts, campuswide alarms and information bars that crawl across the bottom of computer screens.

Mr. Agrawala and other researchers think MyeVyu’s V911 alert tool will deter crime because of its audio/video feature. “Not too many people would like to be on YouTube if they’re going to be committing a crime,” he said.

Students will be able to connect their cell phones to campus police stations and patrol cars. They will also be able to access building locations and closing times, activity schedules and transit options through the MyeVyu application, lifting campus connectivity to a new level.

“You want to know what’s playing in Hoff Theater? We’ll tell you that,” said Mr. Agrawala. “You want to know what’s cooking in the kitchen, we’ll tell you that. You want to remember where you parked your car, we’ll tell you that.”

Parents “cannot wait to have this available to their children who are coming on campus,” said Mr. Agrawala. “With this kind of safety feature available on campus, the campus becomes a much more attractive place. At least that’s the kind of feedback we are getting.”

At first, the V911 application will only be available for iPhone, HTC Pro and Nokia N810 phones. The research team hopes to make it available to all cell phones soon.

The university has not decided whether to charge a fee to download the application or distribute it free.

Researchers will demonstrate their creation Saturday in a tent in front of the math building on the university’s College Park campus.

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