Every month, the Department Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) posts a roundup of key updates from project currently in the development stages in S&T's First Responders Group (FRG). This article outlines FRG's accomplishments in March 2015.
On March 3, S&T launched its first crowd-sourced prize competition under the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science Reauthorization Act of 2010 (The America COMPETES Act) in support of the nation’s first responder community. The topic of the month-long competition, “Indoor Tracking of the Next Generation First Responder,” sparked innovative ideas to solve the challenges of real-time, robust indoor tracking of first responders.
Specifically, S&T and FRG wanted solutions to help answer the basic questions, “Where am I?” and “Where is my Team?” Developing sensors and communications devices that can track first responders in a variety of indoor environments remains a critical need that previous research and development efforts have not been able to address. Through this effort, S&T and FRG sought personalized, modular and scalable approaches to track the next generation of first responders using current and emerging technologies, sensors and techniques.
A number of entries were submitted before the competition closed on April 2. Judges will review all submissions and the winning solutions will be announced in May. The selected solutions could receive a first place award of $20,000 or a second place award of $5,000. For more information on the competition, visit http://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/prize-competitions or contact email@example.com.
Capacity Building Webinar Series
On March 5 and 12, FRG hosted installments of its Capacity Building Webinar Series, both co-sponsored with the National information Sharing Consortium. The first presentation, “Mitigation Innovation,” featured presenters from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey. It showcased tools, technologies and innovative practices on mapping and analyzing flood hazards, as well as organizing “citizen scientists” to crowdsource reports of coastal erosion and inundation.
The second event, “Communicating with International Partners During Emergencies,” featured presenters from FRG, the Centre for Security Science at Defense Research and Development Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador (Canada) Fire and Emergency Services Authority and Texas A&M University. Presenters shared lessons learned from the most recent Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment and explained how participants can leverage social media to support emergency operations; use voice and long-term evolution communications to improve future planning and response actions; and use new data models, tools and applications for facilitating cross-border data exchange during emergencies.
More than 630 people viewed these two webinars, which are now archived on the Capacity Building Webinar Series home page. The next webinar, “Innovative Training and Education Strategies for Homeland Security,” is scheduled for May 7, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. ET.
South by Southwest
On March 13, S&T hosted an interactive workshop at the annual South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. The workshop, “Reinventing Government R&D to Save Lives,” served as a forum that encouraged participants — including members of industry, academia and the local emergency response community — to initiate an open dialogue about how commercial wearable technology solutions can be adapted for first responders.
Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dr. Reginald Brothers and Deputy Under Secretary Dr. Robert Griffin led a conversation with partners from state and local emergency response and innovation offices and representatives from S&T’s recently launched EMERGE! accelerator program. With a focus on wearables and the Internet of Things, the event challenged attendees to think and act differently about the role technology plays in saving lives. By hearing directly from emergency responders, industry partners hopefully now have a heightened understanding of responder needs and can begin to tailor their wearable technology solutions specifically to responder gear.
The workshop was the second (after a session at the EMS Today Conference in Baltimore, Maryland) in a series of dialogues stemming from S&T’s National Conversation. Similar discussions are planned throughout 2015.
International Wireless Communications Expo
During the week of March 16, FRG staff attended the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) in Las Vegas, Nevada, and took part in a number of events to promote the group’s mission and programs. FRG kicked off the conference with a town hall meeting along the lines of the South by Southwest dialogue referenced above. The purpose of the town hall meeting was to highlight the Apex Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) Program and facilitate a discussion about how FRG, state and local government, industry and the emergency response community can work together to ensure that responders are “connected, protected and fully aware.” FRG debuted a new NGFR video and then facilitated a conversation about incorporating emerging communication technologies into responder gear and related themes including data security, encryption and wireless access.
FRG also showcased two of its most promising technologies, the Radio Internet-Protocol Communications Module (RIC-M) and the Turtle Mike, in the IWCE exhibit hall throughout the week. Program managers and partners demonstrated the capabilities of the devices, which both streamline communications and offer response agencies improved interoperability.
Finally, IWCE afforded FRG and S&T several speaking opportunities, including a keynote presentation given by the Deputy Under for Science and Technology Secretary Robert Griffin and several panels focusing on the P25 Compliance Assistance Program, wearable technology development and big data. Photos and additional resources from IWCE will be posted to FirstResponder.gov soon.
New York Area Science and Technology Forum
On March 26, the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) hosted the 35th New York Area Science and Technology Forum (NYAST) Meeting at the lab’s facilities in New York City. The theme for the meeting was “Countering Autonomous Unmanned Systems,” and it featured presentations from Joseph Scott of S&T’s Resilient Systems Division and Bhavan Singh of the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center. Nearly 50 representatives from federal, state and local government agencies, law enforcement and academic institutions attended the meeting. The speakers discussed their respective organizations’ approaches and efforts to detect, track and mitigate small unmanned platforms in urban environments.
Developed and managed by NUSTL, NYAST is a consortium of federal, state and local government organizations, first responders, academic institutions and private sector groups who meet and interact to promote and discuss advances in science and technology. NYAST meetings are held quarterly, and they provide opportunities for first responder members to interact and develop contacts across the homeland security community. Additionally, the NYAST forums provide a unique opportunity for S&T to gather valuable feedback from field operations and to gather operators’ most pressing homeland security issues and needs. To become a NYAST member, please request access at the NYAST community on First Responder Communities of Practice.
To learn more about the items listed in the March 2015 Project Roundup, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.