NSF unveils ‘next-generation’ 911 app
June 12, 2013 in Medical Technology
The National Science Foundation on Tuesday showcased a potentially game-changing smartphone app that allows 911 operators critical insights into what’s going on at the scene of an emergency call.
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The app relays crucial biometric data to dispatchers, enabling them to gather vital signs and other information that helps them assist victims and empower first responders.
The software, which was developed by researchers at the University of North Texas, led by Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Ram Dantu, offers users a slate of features that could be life-saving in an emergency.
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These include text-to-speech technology for clear communication; remote control of smartphone cameras to help 911 operators view emergency scenes; and monitors that relay breathing, blood-pressure and other vital signs to emergency responders.
The app even includes a sensor that helps guide someone responding to an emergency through the proper steps to perform CPR.
Developed with support from the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, the software is still in its pilot phase, but Dantu will be demonstrating it next week at the 2013 National Emergency Number Association conference in Charlotte, N.C.
Emergency 911 calls have undergone a couple major shifts in the past few decades, said Henning Schulzrinne, chief technology officer for the Federal Communications Commission, speaking during the NSF webcast Tuesday.
First, there was the shift from analog to digital calls. Then there was the huge proliferation of mobile phones, beginning in the 1990s.
“We’re in the middle of a grand transition that probably hasn’t happened since the 1970s,” said Schulzrinne.
Nowadays, more than two-thirds of all emergency 911 calls are made from cell phones, he said. That can pose challenges, especially for first responders, looking for a person in distress who isn’t easily locatable by a tethered land line.
But it also presents huge opportunities, especially with smartphones so prevalent, and getting more advanced with every passing month.
“With the current technology available, we thought we could do a lot better than just an audio call,” said Dantu.
The new app offers some surprising advantages over traditional 911 calls.