Penn State Intercom......January 17, 2002

IST students help police glimpse the future

Students from the School of Information Sciences and Technology have given the State College Borough Police a glimpse of high-tech innovations that could make the job of law enforcement easier in the future. palm3a

"For students, this was a class project with real-world problems, learning to deal with customers and other issues," said Jan Mahar, co-instructor of IST 497, which deals with project management. "For the police, this was a chance to see potential tools that could save time and money, and improvpalm5ae accuracy and efficiency."

With financial support from Lockheed Martin, the students developed for police prototype applications for wireless personal digital assistants (PDAs). Under Mahar, assistant director of business solutions, and David Hall, associate dean for research and graduate programs, the 11 students in the class formed consulting teams that, with the help of Lt. Diane Conrad, carefully examined many of the issues that local police face on a day-to-day basis. The teams, named Captain Wireless, IST Consulting and SKV Solutions, then came forward with innovative ways to solve those issues.

SKV, for example, developed a system to help police locate a citizen in distress. By consulting their PDAs, the police patrol responding to the emergency quickly could determine how to find a specific apartment complex, access a diagram of a specific building and identify fastest path to the victim.

Captain Wireless developed a way for police to generate citations on-scene using a hand-held extension that could read drivers' licenses that are swiped through it. IST Consulting turned the PDAs into a data access-way that allows men and women on patrol to get hearing schedules, contact information and forms, such as those used for bicycle registration.

The three teams completed their prototypes by the end of fall semester, and then rode along on patrol to see how the systems operated under field conditions.

"We are pleased with their preliminary prototypes and think there could be potential worth pursuing further. The students were very enthusiastic and easy to work with," Conrad said.

IST junior Luis Valbuena, who was part of IST Consulting, said, "I don't think there is a better course available at Penn State than this one. Not only do you learn the concepts of how a project is executed, the software available to organize a project and the skills it takes to be successful in a project, but you also get a chance to put words into action."

According to Mahar, while the course was only one semester in length, at least one of the students has decided to continue the work as an independent study project in the spring. Additionally, she said, Lockheed Martin is examining the potential of the projects for additional development.