engineering team
From left are UTSA's C.L. Philip Chen, David Akopian and
Abhinav Kumar

Poor roadside assistance inspires engineering team

By Christi Fish
Public Affairs Specialist

(Dec. 16, 2008)--David Akopian, UTSA assistant professor of electrical engineering,is all too familiar with Murphy's Law. Just ask him about the last time he had car trouble.

"My car was broken on 1604, and I was calling my roadside assistance service with my cell phone," he recalls. "As I was going through the automated menu, I made the wrong selection. The man on the line wanted to help. He connected me to another department, but that one happened to be wrong, too, and they asked me to call another number. Eventually, my phone's battery died, and I was on the road for three hours."

Akopian wondered if there was a better way to get help. Collaborating with C. L. Philip Chen, professor and chair of UTSA's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Akopian conceptualized a new emergency reporting system and their team developed a proof-of-concept version with partial funding from the UTSA Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security. Subsequently, master's student Abhinav Kumar developed the concept into a complete working application dubbed PRENOTIS,short for preventative notification system.

Available online, PRENOTIS can be downloaded as an application or accessed through a phone's browser. The application has pre-programmed selections related to the various types of emergency scenarios the user might encounter. When an emergency arises, the user recalls the selections and is able to send a text message in seconds. Because the application is able to decipher the nature of the content, the message is automatically routed to a secure Web-based portal accessible to the appropriate responding agency.

"With PRENOTIS, responding personnel receive the messages online. They see the exact same images, the same text and the same selections in the same order in which they were originally reported," Akopian explains. "PRENOTIS is not a replacement for 911, but it significantly simplifies the reporting of various events by improving services and evidence data collection."

While simple to use, PRENOTIS covers a broad selection of emergency reports, including, but not limited to, liquid spills, tornadoes, road accidents and violence.

PRENOTIS is not yet available to the public, but it has received robust praise. Kumar and his mentors won fourth place (Honorable Mention) in AT&T's "Big Mobile on Campus Challenge," besting teams from very competitive schools including Georgia Tech and the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, among others.

As a result, its developers have filed a patent and are exploring the possibility of acquiring commercial partners to offer PRENOTIS to a wider audience. And, they are introducing PRENOTIS on the conference circuit to obtain wider visibility for the technology.

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