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Program monitors social media for safety concerns at Purdue football games

Purdue faculty and students developed the program to monitor social media posts for a variety of things

Posted: Aug 30, 2018 7:04 PM

West Lafayette, IND (WLFI) - Purdue Police will be using Purdue developed technology to monitor your safety at the Boilermaker’s home opener game.

Purdue faculty and students developed the program to monitor social media posts for a variety of things. It’s called SMART, this stands for Social Media Analysis Reporting Toolkit.

It searches for words within tweets or other posts to check for any threats or emergencies that may be in the area.

Dr. David Ebert, Silicon Valley Professor of Computer and Electrical Engineering at Purdue, helped develop the program. He says the purpose is to make the jobs of first responders easier and more efficient.

“It's a way to harness all of the social media data that is available and make it useful and real time so that first responders and police can take action,” he said.

Purdue Police have used it for the past four years.

"In these particular situations it's important to us because it's another layer of security,” said Purdue Police Chief John Cox.

Security delivered through cyberspace, and it’s not just used here on campus. It’s used across the nation for a variety of situations.

Ebert says it’s been used to track people in the California wildfires. And it helped stop a potential school shooting in Michigan.

"It was also used at the presidential state of the union address to find anything unusual that was going on, the coast guard has used the technology last summer during all four hurricanes that made landfall in the US," he said.

And it can even be used to help reroute busy traffic for gameday.

Chief John Cox says Purdue Police use it to get ahead of situations that may arise in the stands.

"We have been alerted to potential disturbances in the stands especially in our student section when the opponent fan base is right across the way," he said.

Ebert said at a football game last year, they were able to track the location of a tweet to help a fan who appeared to be suffering from heat related illnesses.

Cox says they mainly only see false alarms.

"Almost all of the time it’s simply someone saying something like ‘the quarterback has a bomb of an arm’ or something like that," he said.

Regardless of the situation, Ebert said he is happy to know this technology is helping keep people safe.

"We're contributing something that actually helps our community and it's great to be able to do that,” he said.

He also emphasized to always call 911 first in the case of a true emergency, or contact any police or security that are at the game.

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