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ECU leads in new security research

A new device could make students, faculty safer

A.J. Walton, The East Carolinian

November 17, 2004

ECU's Center for Wireless and Mobile Computing and the Office of Advanced Technology are leading the study on a device that would remedy ECU's on-going security dilemma.

The study came underway last semester after Molly Broad, president of the UNC-System, implemented a task force to research ways to decrease the rising crime-rate amongst North Carolina campuses.

Shortly after the committee was established, Barry DuVall and Matthew Powell were in California for a project and received an alert notifying them that an ECU student had been robbed at knifepoint. At that point, DuVall said his office decided to look into technology that would improve ECU's safety.

"We wanted to find devices that students could use to call for help without having to search in the dark for a blue button on a pole," said DuVall.

"We wanted something that would not only make ECU a better place, but also all schools in North Carolina."

After months of research and investigation, the office finally found a product that would allow students to alert help in an immediate and sufficient manner.

The device would come in the form of a small keychain with two buttons, when pressed simultaneously, blue light poles around campus would be triggered alerting authorities in up to three seconds to identify the person's exact location within a 3-5 foot proximity. In residence halls, authorities would be able to tell what floor an incident took place on.

"In Indiana, a female college student was kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend and thrown into the back of his car. With the use of this same piece of equipment, authorities were alerted immediately... pinpointed the student's location ... and rescued her before the car left the campus," said Powell.

The center believes that the device will also be effective in non-crime-related events, such as car situations and medical incidences.

"The idea is that once a student notified authorities, their personal information would appear, even showing their health problems and emergency contact information," DuVall said.

Amidst speculation that students might unintentionally set off the device, Powell said accidental triggering would be unlikely, because of the device's ability to be disabled when not needed.

"Disabling only requires pressing each side in individually."

The goal of the project is to incorporate all of the qualities of ECU's present security systems, but with new advanced capabilities and more effectiveness.

"Our goal is to be more proactive than reactive," Powell said.

Beth Williams, a sophomore elementary education major, said she thinks the new device is a great idea.

"Not only will it make us feel safer, but it will also make notifying the police easier and will probably lower the chances of crime even taking place on ECU's campus in the future," said Williams.

Costs of the projected technology have not yet been determined.

Both Powell and DuVall said if the project is received well, the cost would decrease substantially and the device could go into trial testing as early as the spring.