The University of Southampton

Crowdsourcing experts team up to accelerate cardiac response

Published: 31 January 2012

Researchers from the University of Southampton will be collaborating with scientists from Masdar Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) to tackle the MyHeartMap Challenge, using social network and crowdsourcing.

Launched today (Tuesday 31 January), by the University of Pennsylvania, MyHeartMap Challenge invites members of the public to participate by submitting geo-tagged pictures of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) they see around Philadelphia, to create an effective location database of AEDs.

Masdar Institute’s computer scientists Dr Iyad Rahwan and Sohan D’Souza and University of Southampton computational game theorists James McInerney, Dr Victor Naroditskiy and Professor Nick Jennings, will join MIT Professor Sandy Pentland and UCSD Research Scientist Dr Manuel Cebrian, aiming to solve the MyHeartMap Challenge – and they are inviting social networkers to be involved in the activity.

It is estimated that around 300,000 people die every year in the US from sudden out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, some of which could be prevented through the timely use of a defibrillator. The University of Pennsylvania has observed that the inability to locate AEDs in such emergency situations greatly reduces their life-saving potential.

The team or individual that finds and photographs the most AEDs in Philadelphia County over the next six weeks will receive the grand prize of US$10,000. The competition has also flagged a number of ‘Golden AEDs’ - which have a US$50 bonus for the first team or individual who photographs and submits a Golden AED to the contest.

Dr Rahwan said: “Our team will use crowdsourcing to encourage people to report the location of AEDs, to verify other reports, and to recruit new participants. If we win, the money will be split among the participants who helped find defibrillators and the participants who recruited them.

Crowdsourcing provides an unprecedented ability to accomplish information-gathering tasks that require the involvement of a large number of people, often at geographically-spread locations. The success of a task relies on the ability to identify trustworthy information reports, while false reports are bound to appear either due to honest mistakes or sabotage attempts. This information verification problem is a difficult task, which, just like the information-gathering task, requires the involvement of a large number of people. Our team develops methods for solving this problem through crowdsourcing: we crowdsource not just for gathering, but also for verification of information."

Dr Rahwan recently co-authored a paper with the DARPA Network Challenge winners on their use of social networks to mobilize people to contribute to their team’s efforts. The paper was recently published in the prestigious Science journal.

Dr Naroditskiy said: “When your goal is to find as many AEDs within as large an area as possible, it would seem obvious that the best way to do that is to involve as many people in the search as possible. That’s what our team is trying to achieve through our expertise in social networking, mobilization and technology.”

The team will use the challenge to test some of their theoretical research on social network mobilization and incentivisation as well as verification, which adds a new layer of complexity not yet seen in crowdsourcing challenges.

Dr Cebrian said: “To most people social networks are just a way to talk to their friends or share videos. But to scientists like us, they represent a unique way to form large teams of people to work in a coordinated way to achieve difficult tasks. If we can harness that power of social networks, then we can enlist countless numbers of helpful volunteers to canvass Philadelphia and seek out and verify the AEDs that are currently not geo-tagged or on any map. This information can later prove to be lifesaving for someone going through sudden cardiac arrest.”

The team has launched its own website to attract team recruits who will help identify as many AEDs as possible. Visit to find out how you can be involved.

The MyHeartMap Challenge was launched on 31 January and will run through March 13.

For further information on this news story, contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453.

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