New technology helping Purdue police respond to emergencies

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University hosted its first football game of the 2018 season on Thursday night and first responders on campus had new technology to monitor the campus during the game.

A Purdue professor and his research team developed a free program that's now in use across the country.

“This is a giant leap for social media analytics tools,” said David Ebert, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "Police departments and first responders can use the social media posts to reach people in need of assistance, including medical emergencies, disaster emergencies or criminal activity. During the start of football season, it can be used to find fans having heat-related medical issues.”

Ebert and his team created the online program called the Social media Analytics and Reporting Toolkit, or SMART, to help first responders better monitor areas of natural or human-made disasters.

The platform technology allows first responders to select key words and themes, such as various types of medical incidents or crimes, which are then visually displayed and highlighted on a map as they are talked about on social media within a specific geographic area.

"U.S. Coast Guard has used it for a number of events as well as helping find people in need when the four hurricanes made landfall to the U.S. last summer," he said.

Purdue police have used this technology for the last three years. Police Chief John Cox said it has helped officers be proactive. It even helped them diffuse fights during football games.

"We were able to pinpoint by the geofence and coordinates where that tweet came from," said Chief Cox.

Ebert believed Purdue University is the only college in Indiana using this program. He said IU did express interest. The Purdue team worked with the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization to patent its work. The team is looking to license or sell the technology.