Prize Competitions are a way to crowdsource and engage citizen inventors directly to find interesting ideas or solutions to some of the toughest homeland security challenges. In fact, the government has used prize competitions for hundreds of years. The White House and U.S. Capitol designs were results of prize competitions. As the delegated authority for prize competitions under the America COMPETES Act, the Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) supports prize competitions throughout Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
S&T has helped the U.S. Coast Guard with prize competitions for designs for new environmentally friendly navigational buoys and ways to track and save boaters in distress. We've helped the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) develop algorithms for scanning technology, and in our most recent prize competition, the Power of Passengers, engaged the innovation community to come up with solutions for better airport security! Prizes are flexible and allow us to work across communities.
Working with New Communities
In addition to the Power of Passengers Challenge, S&T recently held a prize competition to find a better User Interface (UI) for Digital Wallets Challenge. The challenge was unique in that S&T sought to develop an application for the benefit of our Government partners that could be accessed by the everyday citizen. The grand-prize winner stood out in their innovative approach to combine an effective end-user experience and shareable back-end functionality for the verifiable credential community.
S&T posted the winning UI for the global community to use and rework the UX of digital wallets. Although this was a smaller challenge in comparison to past prizes, this was the first time DHS reached out to the design community and set the groundwork for other unique challenges.
Solving Tough Challenges Facing Our Nation
Another recent prize competition was on addressing the opioid crisis. Illicit opioids such as fentanyl have created an unprecedented public health crisis across the United States. In 2019, more than 70,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. International mail is a route for illicit opioids entering the country, commonly transported in nearly pure, powdered form.
S&T collaborated with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service on a challenge which sought groundbreaking tools to quickly and effectively detect opioids concealed in international mail packages. In December 2019, the grand prize winner and runner-up were announced. CBP is deploying the grand-prize winner’s technology in international mail facilities, express consignment facilities, and other facilities across the country that are tasked with disrupting the flow of opioids and related substances. Two other finalists also are working with CBP and S&T to further develop and eventually deploy their technology.
For details on past prizes visit the Challenge Updates page!
Visit Challenge.gov to learn more about all open challenges across the Federal Government.
For more information on the Department of Homeland Security’s Prize Competitions, contact the team at PrizeAuthority@hq.dhs.gov.