ShAir at SmartAmerica Challenge/Expo and the White House

Dec. 2013 - Jun. 2014

Smart Emergency Response System

In an emergency situation such as when an earthquake or hurricane hits an area, people there will be in desperate need of communication means, but at that very moment, cell towers may be down. ShAir could be used in such situations to help people communicate by creating opportunistic networks between people's devices. To pursue this direction, we participated in SmartAmerica Challenge, a White House Presidential Innovation Fellows Initiative whose goal was to explore the possibilities and benefits of Internet of Things (IoT) by bringing in participants from different sectors to interconnect their systems in a new way. Through the Challenge, we formed a team called Smart Emergency Response System (SERS) with eight other organizations (BluHaptics, Boeing, MathWorks, National Instruments, North Carolina State University, University of North Texas, University of Washington, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute), where our responsibility in the team was to develop a smartphone app for emergency response based on the ShAir platform.

The app was designed to allow people in the affected area to submit help requests. Help requests could be relayed through people's devices via the ShAir opportunistic networks until they got picked up by drones hovering over the area that further relayed them to the mission control center. At the direction of the mission control center, requested items could be delivered. Upon request, sensor-equipped dogs as well as teleoperated and humanoid robots could also be deployed for search and rescue. Using the app, people could also share their situations by sharing messages and pictures, which could also be sent to the mission control center to increase situational awareness. SERS system and the ShAir emergency response app was presented at the White House on June 10, 2014, and demonstrated in SmartAmerica Expo on the following day at the Washington D.C. Convention Center.