Safe and secure app store for first responders developed

By Costa Maragos Posted: October 11, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Chuming Li, a computer science student from China, was at the U of R helping develop a special app for first responders.
Chuming Li, a computer science student from China, was at the U of R helping develop a special app for first responders. Photo courtesy of Dr. Yasser Morgan.

In an emergency, it is critical for first responders to have access to information - and to get it quickly and securely.

However, there is always a fear of responders using applications with embedded malicious code. Coming to the rescue is a team of U of R researchers that has developed an app store specifically for first responders.

The system is developed to provide access to a secure pool of applications running on mobile devices for the exclusive use of first responders.

“This app store creates a one-stop shop where responders can go,” says Dr. Yasser Morgan, associate professor of software systems engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “The apps within this app store have been reviewed, evaluated, securely sealed and scrutinized to make sure they do not compromise the responders’ safety or the safe keeping of information they are exchanging.”

The app store ensures safe access to information for responders at an emergency.

“Apps picked up from the web may or may not be safe,” says Morgan. “Responders need the confidence that the apps they are downloading are accurate and free of malicious code.”

The research here is related to the work done at the U of R under the BRiC program (Bridging Research and Interoperability Collaboration). The BRiC initiative is focussed on improving technology for use by first responders.

“Ultimately, the app store will help responders with whatever tools they are using and will not compromise their own safety or the community’s safety,” says Morgan.

The research has been made possible thanks to the collaboration between the University of Regina and the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship. The program gives Canadian university professors access to international interns.

The Global Link program linked Morgan with Chuming Li, a computer science student from the University of Electronic Science and Technology in Chengdu, China. Li worked on developing the secure system to service first responders.

“Mitacs has been phenomenal. It has provided me with people who work with us very well, such as Chuming Li,” says Morgan. “Mitacs has been amazing for our research. They understand the relationship between industry and academic research.”

The app store is now at the beta stage. However, in November 2016, the app will be showcased at the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group CITIG-10 Conference, attended by professional emergency planners and officers responsible for emergency preparedness.

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