Senior Design Team Develops iPhone App to Aid in Disaster Rescue

10/14/2010

The goal of our Stevens Institute undergraduate Senior Design team is to use technology to prevent those trapped in an earthquake or mine disaster from suffering a slow death under the rubble.  Last year during the earthquake drill in California, 6.9 million Californians practiced surviving an earthquake by finding shelter, perhaps under a desk, but had no way to send the information rescuers need.  In a massive earthquake, such detailed information is the key to effectively organizing a timely rescue response.  As we know from recent disasters, the first 100 hours are the most critical in which to identify, plan and respond.  The English version of RescueMe Phone has  already been launched worldwide.  With the upcoming launch of the internationalized version of this application, those countries facing the greatest dangers from earthquakes can also include the RescueMe Phone application in their national rescue drills.

Many suffer and die in the terrible tragedy of an earthquake or mine disaster because rescuers do not know who is trapped, where they are trapped or the physical status of those trapped.  This earthquake and mine rescue senior design project has created a messaging technology that is now available worldwide as a free Apple® iPhone download named RescueMe Phone.   It is the first low power technology that can reliably send these messages to rescuers through the rubble wirelessly without radio.  Anyone can download this iPhone application and help the team roll out this application worldwide.

Computer Science students at Stevens have developed a sophisticated rescue solution for the iPhone/iTouch/iPad.  They adapted and extended mathematically based, error correcting coding algorithms used for deep space communications to communicate more accurate and reliable messages in multiple languages; these messages are self correcting even when some of the percussive pulses hammered out by those trapped are missed by the rescuer because of the background noise of shifting rubble.  Based on the BizTech student’s needs analysis by country, the computer science students have internationalized the application for eight additional languages which BizTech students are currently testing.  The BizTech members have also identified the specific rescue organizations within those countries, including contacts, as part of their rollout plan.

Our goal is to use an iPhone as a platform for international trials to test and improve this available- now technology, and then incorporate this through-the-earth communications technology into not only smart phones but every cell phone.  By adding the percussive technology text messaging code into all mobile phones, anyone with a cell phone will be able to send a message from under the rubble.  With this project, the team has put into place the foundation for subsequent projects to improve the signal processing from seismic and audio sensors and for adding information from those trapped into the Business Process Modeling framework used to organize large scale rescue activities.  Four hundred thousand people have died in earthquakes over the last 6 years.  It is our sincere hope that in the future this Stevens Senior Design Technology can prevent this avoidable suffering and loss of life.