Week 3 in Review

The week began with a fantastic start. Zabir and I traveled to Dowling Hall to meet with our contact at the Tufts University Police Department. The current Deputy Director, Public Safety/Director, and Emergency Management Director met with us in a meeting room in Dowling. We had initially expected to present our idea to him, get his opinions on our project, and then sort out what was a reasonable goal for us to set for the semester. To our surprise, we were informed that he was already well aware of the concept for our app, and had actually turned down several company’s offers to produce a similar product.

The biggest problem, it turned out, was that many of the mobile solutions offered to TUPD required them to set up an additional computer screen to monitor the data coming from the mobile application.

Typically, dispatchers at police headquarters sometimes have up to four different screens that they are already watching. People have limits, and the mobile solutions that were offered would have pushed the dispatchers to theirs.

He explained to us that the ideal system would integrate with the existing computer infrastructure through a code base known as “Global Justice XML”.

“ The Global Justice Extensible Markup Language (XML) Data Model (Global JXDM) is an XML standard designed specifically for criminal justice information exchanges, providing law enforcement, public safety agencies, prosecutors, public defenders, and the judicial branch with a tool to effectively share data and information in a timely manner.” — https://it.ojp.gov/initiatives/gjxdm

It will be interesting to see how we can add this to our application.

An additional limitation that he mentioned to us was getting the “z-coordinate” for location data. Most GPS and cell tower triangulation-based location services only provide only the x- and y-coordinates of the user, that is, their latitude and longitude. In an urban environment, that isn’t always enough. For example, it isn’t very useful for emergency services to be able to pinpoint the latitude and longitude of a user inside a 30 floor building if they still need to check all 30 floors. The z-coordinate tells emergency services what the user’s elevation is and solves that problem.

Finding the z-coordinate is challenging. Traditional location systems don’t have any mechanism to find it. Recent mobile phone systems and other wearable devices, however, are equipped with the hardware necessary for it. Using that hardware to get an accurate location estimate and integrating it with geolocaiton services is a whole other story.

Our overall takeaway from meeting with public safety was that this idea has been attempted before, and in order to succeed, we will need to find away around the roadblocks that caused those previous attempts to fail.

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