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All around us, a proliferation of technological advances are shaping and reshaping our world, changing the method and speed of our communications and connecting our world in ways we never imagined just a few years ago. At the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), we give a lot of thought to how we can best mobilize, leverage or repurpose cutting-edge technology to strengthen the security of our nation.
A top priority of S&T is to ensure the safety of the first responders who put their lives on the line to protect the American people. S&T is dedicating resources today to equip a Responder of the Future that is protected, connected, fully aware and wholly prepared to safely and effectively pursue their life-saving mission. The idea is to make our responders as wired and connected as the rest of our community is becoming – even more so. To navigate challenging environments, our future responder needs to receive actionable information at the speed of thought. The solutions we deliver must be intuitive so a responder can readily understand and deploy them while under duress. They must be instinctive to enable an instantaneous response. They must be interoperable to function compatibly in a given threat environment. And finally, to be effective, they must be wearable.
This last point – wearable technology – is one that deserves a full vetting. S&T is exploring what wearable technology our responders need to help them think and move more strategically during an emergency. Firefighters can’t stop to check electronic devices for information in the midst of a raging fire. They need useful data at the speed of thought. We need solutions that push the information they need to them, when they need it, and wherever they may be. We want technology that can direct them to the safest way out of the building or that can alert them to the location of a victim.
What kind of technology could be incorporated into the face shield of a helmet to deliver real-time actionable data to a firefighter? That’s what we’re looking for. S&T kicked off the National Conversation on Homeland Security Technology this month and our first discussion is about wearable technologies.
We know there are gifted, innovative technologists out there as well as dedicated responders who have a vested interest and much to contribute to this discussion. Join us. Please help inform the discussion as we identify the requirements and devise workable solutions for the Responder of the Future.
Dr. Robert Griffin is Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology .