Local News

High-Tech Systems May Give Students New Way To Call For Help

Posted January 12, 2005 4:48 a.m. EST

— Some high-tech systems could soon give students a new way to call for help.

Large schools, like East Carolina University, always look for new ways to improve the campus.

"One of the prime questions we hear from new students coming in and their families is how safe is the environment," said Darryl Davis, coordinator for ECU Special Projects.

Researchers at ECU's Center for Wireless and Mobile Computing are exploring new high-tech systems to help.

"We ought to be able to make people safe no matter where they go," said wireless researcher Barry Duvall.

Researchers started by looking at existing security systems on campus like call boxes. They are now working to improve the concept by using items many people carry with them everyday.

One design uses a wireless remote, about the size of a key chain, to trigger the help button. Another system places wireless sensors in buildings throughout campus, so you do not need a box at all. The remote button automatically gives police a general location.

Information stored in a computer tells them who is in trouble. A third similar system has a tracking device in the remote. If the person in trouble is moving, police can track them anywhere on campus. Another tracking device can be triggered with a cell phone.

"We have students that are very mobile moving constantly in busy areas, so we wanted to use technology that would help us," Duvall said.

Universities across the state are interested in the project, even though those involved realize it could take a while to put into practice.

"It will be very tough to find the funds immediately to put one in everyone's hand," Davis said.

Researchers showed off some of the systems to ECU administrators this week. They hope to test to other campuses soon.