At a time when mobile phones are becoming increasingly sophisticated and customised, Monash University scientists have developed a new application that could speed up emergency response in time of disaster.
For six years, Dr. Shonali Krishnaswamy and her team at the Centre for Distributed Systems and Software Engineering at Monash University have been wrestling with the potential of mobile data mining - where information is collected from any number of sources, analysed and displayed via the limited real estate of an individual's mobile phone screen.
The team is one of many around the world trying to best display complex, constantly-changing information in a way that is simple and easily understood.
They recently filed a provisional patent for their "clutter-aware visualisation technique" that allows changing information to be constantly updated, analysed and displayed.
Dr Krishnaswamy said the application had a wide range of possibilities but the team initially focused on healthcare and disaster management systems, hoping to cut response times and enable critical decisions to be made faster.
"In one example our technique can analyse calls made to emergency services during a wind storm or heavy rains, provide a bird's eye view of where most calls are coming from and then display this information on a map to mobiles that ground personnel are carrying.
This allows them to see where the trouble spots are and quickly reach the areas that need help most urgently," she said.
"The real-time data and analysis are immediately available to ground personnel, rather than first being transmitted to a command centre and then relayed back. This way, personnel on the field and in central command can understand an emerging situation and best respond."
In another example under development, physiological indicators like blood pressure or heart rate could be collected by state-of-theart biosensors and relayed via a mobile phone to warn supervisors of escalating stress or fatigue levels at the scene of an emergency, warning them when to rotate staff.
The mobile phone screen visualiser uses an algorithm to consider the information transmitted and automatically adjusts the way it is presented to reduce clutter and facilitate understanding.
The user can personalise the display depending on the size of their screen and its computational capability, their ability to process the information on the screen, how much clutter they can tolerate and how frequently updates are required.
Dr. Krishnaswamy is now beginning to showcase the application to commercial organisations she believes will benefit from it in an emergency situation.
"The possibilities of mobile data mining are unlimited," she adds. "We're just beginning to explore the usefulness of this cost-effective technology."