PSCR Receives Funding from NIST to Continue Research Work
Tuesday, June 21, 2022 | Comments
With the original funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) division set to end, NIST has provided additional funding to allow the division to continue its research.

Ten years ago, PSCR received $300 million in funding to push forward public-safety communications research, which it has done through grants, prize challenges, internal research and more. That $300 million in funding ends September 30.

“This $300 million was a once in a lifetime investment,” said PSCR Division Chief Dereck Orr.

At its highest point, PSCR was funding about 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, Orr said. With the new funding, the division’s operations will be scaled back to about 24 full-time staff. PSCR will also not have the funding to continue prize challenges and grants, so its focus moving forward will be on continued internal research in three key areas: mission-critical voice, enhanced user interface and experience (UI/UX) and location-based services.

However, there will be several prize challenges still because the PSCR division paid for those challenges up front prior to the expiration of the funds. These include the Command Dashboard Integrating Next-Gen (CommanDING) Tech challenge, which recently launched and focuses on incident command dashboard technologies, and the FRST prize challenge, which Indiana University is executing.

Additionally, Orr said, even though the division will not be able to fund any more grants or prize challenges past September 30, that does not herald the end of the industry collaboration that has been a hallmark of PSCR’s work for the last 10 years.

“We will always be open and look for active engagement opportunities with academia and industry on joint research projects,” Orr said. “There’s definitely ways and tools that we can use moving forward to continue that collaboration.”

Orr said that one of the things he’s most proud of from PSCR’s first 10 years is how it expanded the landscape of public-safety communications research. Prior to PSCR’s work, much of the research was focused in Boulder and Gaithersburg, where the government’s research divisions are. But over the last 10 years, PSCR has partnered with hundreds of organizations worldwide and greatly expanded the research ecosystem.

“I feel that we’re leaving behind a much larger research community than existed five years ago,” Orr said.

Orr also said that he’s proud of how PSCR has pushed forward innovation in the industry. He noted how at PSCR’s 2017 Stakeholder Meeting, the division had several teams develop videos of what they thought public-safety communications would look like in the future. Five years later, at this year’s PSCR Stakeholder Meeting, teams and researchers presented prototypes of many of those things that had been presented in those videos, Orr said.

“I feel that we have really moved the ball,” he said. “Things that were just seen as sci-fi are now becoming a reality.”

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