Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Qatar Computing Research Institute have developed new tools that allow people with minimal programming skill to rapidly build cellphone applications that can help with disaster relief. The tools are an extension of the App Inventor open-source software that enables nonprogrammers to create applications for devices running Google’s Android operating system by snapping together color-coded graphical components.

Illustration by Christine Daniloff/MIT
With the new tools, an emergency aid worker could, for instance, build an application to monitor many different data sources on the Internet for updated information about the locations of ad hoc shelters, and display them all on a Google map.

“When you have a disaster, there are two issues,” says Jim Hendler, director of the Institute for Data Exploration and Applications at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “One is, ‘How do you get the data you need and pull it together?’ And two is, ‘How do you put that in the hands of the person who needs it?’ And this project is one of the first to really approach both parts of the problem together.”

Visit http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/building-disaster-relief-phone-apps-0930.html to learn more.

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