An Optimized Alert System Based on Geospatial Location Data

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Virginia Tech

Crises are spontaneous and highly variable events that lead to life threatening and urgent situations. As such, crisis and emergency notification systems need to be both flexible and highly optimized to quickly communicate to users. Implementing the fastest methods, however, is only half of the battle. The use of geospatial location is missing from alert systems utilized at university campuses across the United States. Our research included the design and implementation of a mobile application addition to our campus notification system. This addition is complete with optimizations including an increase in the speed of delivery, message differentiation to enhance message relevance to the user, and usability studies to enhance user trust and understanding. Another advantage is that our application performs all location data computations on the user device with no external storage to protect user location privacy. However, ensuring the adoption of a mobile application that requests location data permissions and relating privacy measures to users is not a trivial matter. We conducted a campus-wide survey and interviews to understand mobile device usage patterns and obtain opinions of a representative portion of the campus population. These findings guided the development of this mobile application and can provide valuable insights which may be helpful for future application releases. Our addition of a mobile application with geospatial location awareness will send users relevant alerts at speeds faster than those of the current campus notification system while still guarding user location privacy, increasing message relevance, and enhancing the probability of adoption and use.

Emergency management, converged security, Android mobile software engineering, emergency notification, usability engineering, usability survey, usability interview, mobile device usage