Researchers and engineers from the University of South Florida have been awarded a patent that could see the public better informed about crime and disasters than ever before. The patent (US8045954) covers a system that would enable governments to crowdsource crime fighting as well as laser target disaster announcements to mobile phones using a GPS aware app.
The patent summary does a good job of, well, summarizing the patent:
A method of providing emergency related information to and from a centralized location over a wireless network. The method utilizes cellular phones in emergency communications and entails two embodiments that employ location-aware technologies, in portable form, in security applications. One embodiment serves as a modern high-tech “neighborhood watch,” enabling law enforcement access to the many “eyes and ears” of the public simultaneously via available cell phones. Cell phones with embedded digital cameras allow the instant capture and remote submission of suspicious circumstances to law enforcement through pictures or video.
The idea of crowdsourcing crime fighting data certainly isn’t new. Sites like HarrassMap (which seems very popular) and apps like Fight Back (which seems to have gotten no traction at all) have been around for a while now, but it still is a great idea – especially when combined with information delivered through photos or videos can be added to the equation.
A world where average citizens could aid police in finding an abducted child, or a suspected murderer, or a bank robber is certainly a safer one.
The app would also have incredible power to contact cell phone users with laser targeted data in case of an emergency. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires – all pose a very real threat to human life. An app like this could be instrumental in discovering those who are trapped or injured. It could even be useful in directing individuals and families to the closest shelter, communicating important shelter rules like whether pets are allowed or if people with special needs can be accommodated comfortably.
The group we have to thank for this are:
- Sean Barbeau, CUTR research associate and Computer Science and Engineering doctoral candidate
- Philip Winters, Director of Transportation Demand Management Program at CUTR
- Rafael Perez, computer science and engineering professor
- Miguel Labrador, associate professor of computer science and engineering
- Nevine Georggi,CUTR Senior Research Associate
The patent was filed all the way back in August of 2006 but was not granted until October 2011. There appears to have no known current deployment of the technology patented.