Smartphones show disasters as they happen

Computer Science geeks at the University of Portsmouth have found a way of making smartphones show a disaster unfolding in real-time on phone screens.

They’ve developed an application and prototype, which currently allows a range of different uses such as allowing docs to monitor heart patients’ ECG right through to helping coppers in the central control unit to see where each PC plod is in an emergency.

Dr Mohamed Gaber, of the University of Portsmouth’s School of Computing, and geeks from Monash University have also said that the app can also be used in a natural disaster. One example given was  to help those co-ordinating rescue efforts to use an electronic map on their phone screens with clusters showing which areas are worst affected.

They said that because such information would constantly update as the disaster unfolds, the clusters would adjust automatically in size and scale as new clusters formed to stop the phone screen becoming over-crowded with information.

And the researchers are blowing their own trumpets claiming that this is the first time anyone has managed to develop a “clutter-aware visualisation for mobile data mining that automatically considers the amount of information presented on screen and dynamically adjusts the way this information is presented to avoid confusion and enhance ease of understanding.”

They added that a lot of work had gone into making the application usable and interactive.
 “The need for an application that knows when information overload is a threat is very important,” they added.

According to the boffins, clutter on a phone screen is measured in two ways – the percentage of the screen occupied by clusters; and the percentage of clusters that overlap.

Someone using the app can choose to decide the amount of clusters they can visually manage on their phone screen and when a situation becomes more complex, the phone image is automatically scaled down.

If this is too much information for the user, then the clusters change colour so black dots represents a lot of activity or data, grey represents a fair amount, and white represents very little.

Those who don’t want to look at the screen can also opt to have a sound only option so an alert sounds every time a new cluster forms or an existing one grows.

The researchers started developing the application in response to the growth of mobile devices coupled with their increased computational capacity.