Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) attended the annual Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Expo. During our three days at the event, S&T staff met several members of the public safety and industry communities who are working hard to develop reliable, interoperable and secure communications for responders.
APCO is a great reminder of the real-world impact technology has for the men and women who keep our communities safe, and how communications capabilities are the backbone for effective response. That’s why I was pleased S&T could join forces with the DHS Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) at the event to emphasize how the entire Department stands behind our nation’s public safety officials and volunteers. S&T and OEC both coordinate directly with stakeholders to understand their needs, and then use that information to provide specialized support, in the form of trusted research and development from S&T, and technical assistance and training opportunities from OEC. All of DHS is committed to ensuring those serving on the front lines of America’s homeland security can perform their duties safely and effectively.
DHS S&T program managers and partners presented on some of our key research areas, including the Next Generation First Responder Apex program, our work countering jamming and cyber threats to public safety communications, and advanced video analytics. In addition, S&T held the quarterly Project 25 Compliance Assessment Program Advisory Panel meeting to take advantage of the stakeholders gathered at the show. These engagements provided useful recommendations, ongoing project updates, and an opportunity for stakeholders nationwide to give us feedback to improve our programs.
Some of the technologies S&T showcased at APCO provided a sense of how communications are evolving based on influences from broadband technology and the Internet of Things. For example, the Assistant for Understanding Data through Reasoning, Extraction and Synthesis (AUDREY) is an artificial intelligence system that helps users process visual data in real-time to identify what’s most pertinent in a given situation – it could help highlight where a person is in a low-visibility setting, or help identify environmental hazards to better protect responders.
Another tool to help keep responders safe is the Burn Saver Thermal Sensor, a small device clipped to a firefighter’s gear that automatically alerts them when the surrounding temperature reaches dangerous levels that could impact their personal protective equipment. Automatic alerts are becoming an increasingly important capability for public safety, where having timely information can mean the difference between life and death.
Making sure the right people have the right information at the right time is a priority for public safety and S&T. For this reason, we convened a working group and developed the Information Sharing Assessment Tool (ISAT), which helps responder agencies identify their current information sharing practices and identify areas they can improve. This free questionnaire can help establish a baseline of current communications capabilities and track progress over time as users take it again in the future. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know, and the ISAT was designed to help provide that vital insight.
If you’re interested in learning more about the ways we’re supporting public safety communications and other capabilities, I encourage you to explore S&T’s First Responder work. I also want to sincerely thank everyone who stopped by the DHS booth to discuss how S&T’s work could help public safety or identify new opportunities to partner on cutting-edge research and development. You can keep the conversation going by checking our website for the latest news on technology and business opportunities, and remember to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for regular updates.