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Smart City Internet of Things Innovation (SCITI) Labs

DHS Science and Technology Directorate's (S&T's) SCITI Labs initiative leverages cutting-edge Smart City and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to deliver new capabilities to DHS components and to enhance public safety in communities across the country. SCITI Labs brings together key government and private sector partners to identify new and existing technologies that both meet first responders’ operational needs and enhance commercial buildings, ensuring the nation’s critical infrastructure and those who protect it are secure and resilient.


S&T established the SCITI (pronounced “city”) Labs initiative in collaboration with the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC), TechNexus and Smart City Works to focus on applying new and existing technologies to public safety and national security needs, with an emphasis on extensive validation and go-to-market support through industry partners. The SCITI Labs partnership continues to support research, development and test of a variety of prototype technologies in these overarching capability areas:

  • Intelligent Building Sensor Suite (situational awareness, building management, digital twin, physics-based effects modeling)—Development of intelligent suites (digital imagery, video, thermal or Wi-Fi finder) that can be mounted on fixed indoor building features, such as smoke detectors or exit signs. This will improve day-to-day operations of building owners/operators and help first responders to rapidly prioritize search and rescue areas when emergencies occur.
  • Cybersecurity for IoT and Industrial Control Systems—This effort, based on CISA requirements, will provide a validated network reference architecture and a playbook for procurement officers to help specify “fit-for-purpose, cyber-secure” systems for IoT networks, industrial control systems and critical infrastructure ranging from animal tracking collars to large public facilities. 
  • Wildland Fire SensorsResearch focused on real-time and continuous identification of heat sources and smoke to detect ignition location, track fire perimeter, track fire characteristics, and allow for geographically targeted notifications and warnings.
    • Wildland Fire Sensors R&D—This paper provides an update on 200 Alpha phase sensors deployed in the U.S., Canada, and Germany with promising early results—including several wildfires identified within 30 to 60 minutes of ignition.
  • Low-Cost IoT Flood Sensors—Development of rapidly deployable, low-cost flood inundation sensors for alerts, warnings and notifications to responders and citizens using Internet of Things (IoT) wireless emergency alerts.
  • Vehicle Inspection for Early Warning (VIEW)—DHS S&T is partnering with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Federal Protective Service (FPS) to design, develop, and test solutions that are easily deployed at vulnerable locations to provide early warning of contraband smuggling (e.g., drugs, weapons, explosives, human trafficking). The solutions are designed to be low-cost, automated, fast, and resilient with both permanent and highly-mobile deployments.
  • Autonomous Navigation for Indoor Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)—Support for indoor search and rescue in difficult environments, such as tunnels or collapsed or damaged structures, where missions are difficult and endanger responders and those they aim to rescue.
  • Body-worn Interoperable Communications Platform (concluded)—Development of a SmartHub that integrates personal area network communications with third-party sensor packages. The SmartHub will enhance emergency responder situational awareness and support enhanced mission-critical operations.

S&T is adding value at the intersection of Smart Cities and IoT by taking a two-phased approach. First, after a highly competitive selection process, performers are awarded funding in Phase I to develop initial prototypes of their capabilities. SCITI Labs identifies new and existing technologies, assesses prototype capabilities and gains end-user and stakeholder input—particularly from industry partners who are critical to bringing these tools to market.

S&T is leveraging this “commercial first” approach by working with technology innovation companies, government public safety officials, infrastructure owners and private sector investment partners to further design, develop and operationally test and evaluate these capabilities for commercial adoption. To achieve this, S&T implements a streamlined path-to-market process focused on technologies that are useable, affordable and scalable to suit the mission needs of DHS components, first responders and industry. As of January 2022 the program has achieved 8X cash-on-cash leverage of private capital to DHS S&T funded companies, created more than 200 new jobs, 16 new patents and 10 new products.

  • Ai4 Technologies’s solution applies the latest sensor technologies and AI to enable intelligent and automated early detection of wildfire and other environmental hazards or risks.
  • Airgility, Inc. developed 3D printable multi-mission UAS, designed to conduct search and rescue operations in degraded environments; their systems can be used on the ground or in the air.
  • Akular rapidly produces 3D digital twins of complex facilities that support walkthrough, geo-location and real-time sensor readings that help make facilities “smart.”
  • Breeze Technologies UG provides hyperlocal data and advice to improve local air quality based on advanced artificial intelligence, their own air quality sensor networks, and external data sources.
  • CommandWear Systems, Inc. developed a situational awareness software platform designed to improve the accuracy and speed of response while enhancing responder safety. Using tablets, smartphones and smartwatches, the platform can help with asset tracking, event playback, two-way messaging, and biometric monitoring in order to improve response time and accuracy, and enhance personnel safety.
  • Coolfire Solutions developed a platform that integrates multiple data systems and sensors and supports real-time incident management, multi-directional communication, mapping, tracking, and reporting activities.
  • Crossroads Innovation Group has extensive expertise in developing NIST and other standards relevant to cybersecurity and federation of networks.
  • DarkBlade (an Intrepid Systems Company) provides analysis and remediation of radio frequency vulnerabilities in IoT and other networks of devices.
  • DataKwip delivers smart building analytics integrated with existing Building Management Systems to help building owners reduce costs sufficiently to achieve both ROI and enhanced public safety.
  • Device Authority provides end-to-end life cycle management of IoT and industrial control devices and equipment to help ensure only properly functioning and authorized devices have access to network resources.
  • EcoDomus, Inc. focused on modeling buildings in 3D, using standards-based Building Information Modeling, to improve the ways buildings are designed, built, managed and retrofitted.
  • Excession Technologies Ltd.’s platform offers mass scale data processing, asset tracking, real-time analytics and incorporates multiple sensor types, as well as video, photo, and audio sharing.
  • Intellisense Systems is developing fully remote and autonomous flood warning systems to alert responders and communities to flood threats.
  • Known Quantity Sensors, Inc. developed a proprietary software and IoT edge sensor platform that uses artificial intelligence-backed, image-based processing to quantify and locate human occupancy.
  • Mutualink, Inc. developed a secure multimedia communications network that enables real-time exchange and sharing of any media between any agencies, over any networks and provides unified agency communications capabilities.
  • N5 Sensors, Inc. is developing next-generation wearable gas and chemical hazard detectors for first responders and industrial workers.
  • Onclave Networks, LLC provides the first fully-compliant zero trust networking solution for operational networks and devices.
  • One Engineering, LLC develops custom autonomous or remotely operated air vehicles for a variety of mission needs.
  • OST is a federal systems integrator with deep experience in cybersecurity, AI/ML, facility operations, and other capabilities critical for Homeland Security
  • Synthetik Applied Technologies will apply artificial intelligence, deep learning, and pattern modeling to the problem of vehicle under carriage inspection and automated license-plate reading.
  • Third Insight’s software converts off-the-shelf unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into artificially intelligent, autonomous vehicles. The UAVs can act autonomously to find signs of life or search out, identify and track targets of interest. Real-time video, 3D mapping and sensor fusion are used to navigate indoors and in environments where GPS is intermittent or unavailable.
  • The University of Cincinnati used ultrasound and other sensors to localize, map and navigate indoor and unstructured environments for UAS.
  • The University of Dayton developed an open, secure, expandable platform to connect various sensors and actuators; the platform has a base visualization system and can perform command and control operations of these devices.
  • Wireless System Solutions, LLC developed end-to-end multi-standard/band wireless network solutions that provide connectivity from the macro cellular network to the end point gateway and/or sensor.
  • Zello’s system is a fluid LTE-to-LMR push-to-talk solution. Their app is founded on “live” voice and can be used anywhere in the world with a smartphone. It is a low-cost, reliable, secure alternative to traditional radios, and is also being widely adopted by the public, additionally enabling selective public communications.
  • ZeteoTech develops leading edge bio-sensors to help ensure the safety of large public spaces.

SCITI Labs technology performers demonstrated the applicability of their technologies to public safety and other component operations and the potential overall impact, such as improved first responder efficiency and situational awareness.

As an example, during a simulated search and identify scenario, responders were able to adjust baseline operating procedures using the information provided by SCITI Labs technologies—changed the building ingress point based on video data, donned protective gear outside instead of inside because of a gas sensor reading or modified clearance patterns based on sensor detection of individuals inside buildings.

First Responder arrive at the scene of a simulated emergency response scenario.

Although the SCITI Labs technologies were at different stages of product maturity, a number of the technologies funded had already demonstrated impact in the market and to the public safety community.

In April 2019, performers took a more “commercial first” approach by implementing a streamlined commercialization process focused on technologies that are useable, affordable and scalable to suit the mission needs of DHS components, first responders and industry.

Operational evaluations with end users were conducted, providing the opportunity for continued technology enhancement, refinement, and application to customer requirements. These events were closely coordinated with DHS S&T stakeholders, DHS components, and partners from the private sector and showcased how these capabilities could be used during normal operations and in emergency situations.

Next Steps and Path Forward

The SCITI Labs program has now established a network of “Living Labs,” operational facilities and communities already hosting DHS S&T innovations, including flood and wildfire sensors (the Virginia Smart Community Testbed in Stafford, VA), comprehensive in-building sensor and building management platforms (Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.), drone operations (City of Winchester and elsewhere) and other capabilities. As new innovations are matured through the SCITI Labs “Commercial First Innovation” process, these Living Labs become the transition point to push innovations into initial operational use for both civilian and DHS enterprise needs.

Last Updated: 11/15/2023
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