Report on the 2010 First Responder Technology Workshop

On Wednesday, July 28, Project54 hosted the 2010 First Responder Technology Workshop. Over 60 people attended, including first responders, industry representatives, journalists, as well as UNH faculty, staff and students.

The workshop started with demonstrations of Project54-based technology. Five first responder agencies (Durham Fire, Greenland PD, Lee PD, New Hampshire Fire Marshall and New Hampshire State Police) demonstrated Project54 technology deployed in the field. UNH’s Research Computing Center introduced a prototype version of a crash reporting system. Finally, 54ward, a company that deploys Project54-based technology, showed us a commercially available integrated system of in-car police equipment.

The workshop continued with a working lunch. Lunch speaker Glenn Shwaery, Assistant Dean of Research for the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, reflected on some threats that first responders (as well as the military) have to be able to handle in today’s world, such as flash mobs organized by a few text messages. Glenn also discussed technologies that might be helpful in dealing with these threats, from non-lethal weapons that scare away (most) people to robot chaperones programmed to guide people during evacuations.

Following Glenn’s talk Andrew Kun, Project54 Principal Investigator, led a discussion about the future of pervasive computing technologies for law enforcement. Participants proposed specific technologies that would be helpful in conducting their day-to-day operations. One such idea was a keyless entry system that would provide access to multiple vehicles. Advanced keyless entry systems unlock vehicles in response to the proximity of a person. These systems are available on many cars but naturally, each device provides access to only one car. Providing access to multiple cars would be useful for police agencies where officers might be asked to use any one of the agency cruisers at any given time. Instead of having to find the specific key for a specific cruiser, an authorized officer’s proximity would unlock any of the agency’s cruisers and allow the officer to step inside. Of course, the officers would also need to be able to start the cruiser’s engine without a traditional key.

After lunch, workshop participants moved to Morse Hall for demonstrations of technologies under development in our lab. We discussed the use of our high fidelity driving simulator and eye trackers in developing novel in-car user interfaces. Participants also saw a prototype of the Project54 software for handheld computers, currently being developed for deployment with the mounted unit of the Dover NH PD. Finally, we demonstrated a prototype of a collaborative photo sharing application for a multi-touch table.

Overall, the 2010 First Responder Technology Workshop was very successful. Participants indicated that they found the workshop useful and enjoyable. Project54 faculty, staff and students had ample opportunity to discuss research and development-related issues with first responders. We are also very pleased with the excellent media coverage (thanks to Beth Potier of UNH Media Relations). Finally, it was a real pleasure to host Rich Lougee, a member of Senator Judd Gregg’s staff, at the workshop. Since 1999 Senator Gregg has secured over $34 million in funding for Project54 making it possible to develop and deploy Project54’s in-car technology. Rich read a letter conveying Senator Gregg’s congratulations and wishes for continued success.

For photos from this event go to Flickr.

Andrew Kun

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