Remote Control

Making a Difference—Anytime, Anywhere

By Chelsea Jackson

When Luis Larco was a kid growing up in Peru, he says his dad often told him that he wished he could work from the beach.

Luis Larco
Photo by: Scott Benbrook

“Now it’s possible,” says Larco (ECE 5th year). “You can be sitting on the beach, on the sand-you can do your work from anywhere.” That laptops have enabled Larco to work remotely-whether in his dorm room or with waves crashing in the background near his current hometown of Miami-is only one part of his innovation equation. Beyond his academic endeavors, Luis has been working on several exciting real-world projects as part of his IIT education.

One product of his work-a Web-based dashboard for the Chicago Police Department-helps police to monitor crime information in the Windy City. Larco’s work is part of a larger Predictive Policing project, conducted under the supervision of Professor Miles Wernick at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Medical Imaging Research Center, in which concepts from medical imaging are used in the development of computer algorithms that analyze and predict crime. The project has produced several crime-prediction capabilities, one of which involves prediction of tomorrow’s level of crime activity based on numerous factors. Larco has translated this and other algorithmic data into a user-friendly website that can guide police officers when they assess variables in crime patterns on any given beat.

As Larco explains, “A certain number of crime events happen every day in each part of the city. Police officers often know what to expect, but if they see a spike in robberies, they will know that this is not normal.” One feature of the dashboard is that it will allow a police commander to review the data from prior days to see if something that is taking place in that moment is unusual and then make adjustments, such as directing more officers to an area that may be in need.

The CPD will begin using the system this fall once the beta-testing phase is complete.

Larco and Wernick are both engineers wanting to make an impact on real-world problems. Wernick explains that “IIT’s Medical Imaging Research Center has been focused on developing tools to improve health care, and it has been very rewarding to apply our experience in this area to assist law enforcement agencies with new tools to fight crime.”

Larco echoes Wernick’s sentiments: “When I think of engineering, I always try to think about what the needs of my community and the world are, and how I can make a change. That’s one of the things that grabbed my attention about this project.” He adds, “Chicago has been having a lot of issues with crime. What can I do to help? That is a big incentive for me to spend nights and weekends working on the project.”

The CPD dashboard is one of three projects in Larco’s recent portfolio of activities. This summer he worked for GE Healthcare to develop an automated testing platform that will allow engineers to test the accuracy of medical devices automatically using computers. He says this method could reduce equipment testing from six months to one day, saving the company money and simplifying manual work. A third project, for UFarmIIT, aims to develop an embedded system that will remotely monitor, control, and care for a student-run farm on IIT Main Campus.