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UNT Insider | July 2013 issue | UNT researcher's smartphone software helps 911 callers render better aid in an emergency

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UNT researcher's smartphone software helps 911 callers render better aid in an emergency

From a UNT News Service press release

smartphone screen display of with instructions

A caller's view in the process of determining a victim's breaths per minute.

A new 911 software system that uses smartphone technology can virtually place 911 operators at an emergency sceneto assist 911 callers.

The new system is thanks to Ram Dantu, professor of computer science and engineering. Dantu developed the system with the support of a National Science Foundation grant. He worked with Krishna Kavi, professor of computer science and engineering, Parthasarathy Guturu, associate professor of electrical engineering, and researchers from Texas A&M University and Columbia University on the project.

The software system offers:

  • Text-to-speech technology for clear communication.
  • Remote control of smartphone cameras so an operator can view an emergency scene while controlling the lighting and zoom of a caller's camera.
  • Breathing and vital sign monitors so an operator can accurately gauge a victim's status.
  • A CPR monitor that displays the compression depth and rate to allow an operator to accurately coach a caller on giving CPR.

Using the system, a 911 caller can place their smartphone on a victim's torso and the emergency operator will be able to view the victim's breaths per minute. This kind of information is valuable to emergency medical technicians and helps emergency operators decide whether to direct a 911 caller to give CPR, Dantu says.

"Callers need as much accurate information as quickly as possible during an emergency, and we are using technology already available in smartphones to bring 911 operators closer to emergency scenes than ever before," Dantu says. "If the caller does need to perform CPR on the victim, they can place or attach their smartphone on top of their hands and then begin. The system will tell the operator how effectively they are performing CPR and give the operator a chance to tell the caller to change the speed or depth of their compressions."

In case communication is lost with the operator, the phone itself also is equipped to generate CPR feedback using alerts built into the application.

"Some smartphone users may have concerns about privacy and security with the use of this program," Dantu says. "When a person downloads the application and launches it for the first time, the application is designed to disclose all of its capabilities and ask the user to opt-in to allowing emergency operators access to their phone's sensory hardware. In a sense, this is the same as granting tech support remote access to a computer for a short period of time."

Dantu presented the software at the 2013 National Emergency Number Association Conference held in Charlotte, N.C., where emergency operators used the software and provided feedback.

Leslie Wimmer with UNT News Service can be reached at


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July 2013

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