Phone software could help in disasters

Jan. 4, 2012 at 8:51 PM
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MANCHESTER, England, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- British researchers say new software could locate missing people in disasters and help people find their way to safe zones simply by checking their cellphones.

Computer scientists as the University of Manchester said the smartphone technology could potentially not only help save lives but could also ease the burdens on aid organizations.

Researchers in the university's Machine Learning and Optimization program have developed the REUNITE mobile and Web platform, a university release reported Wednesday.

After a major disaster, aid workers typically interview people who have become separated from their families, but the interview records -- normally stored in paper form, can be lost, damaged or become illegible.

REUNITE records the initial interview using a smartphone and uploads them onto a central server where they can be accessed by aid workers via computer away from the scene.

The interviews would be quickly transcribed into a Web-searchable format that could be downloaded by relief workers on the ground, who can then relay the information to survivors.

As part of the same research, the scientists also created software called "Where's Safe" to quickly identify safe zones where people can go in event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

The software allows people to find their nearest safe point simply by sending a text message from their cellphone.

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