NIST Awards $38.5M in Grant Money for Public-Safety LTE
Monday, June 12, 2017 | Comments

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded $38.5 million to 33 research and development (R&D) projects aimed at advancing broadband communications technologies for first responders.

The multi-year grants are intended to help modernize public-safety communications and operations by supporting the migration of data, video and voice communications from LMR to a nationwide public-safety broadband network, as well as accelerating critical technologies related to indoor location tracking and public-safety analytics. 

NIST reviewed 162 proposals from a diverse pool of national and international applicants across industry, academia and public-safety organizations. The 33 selected projects span five key technology areas that have the potential to greatly enhance public-safety communications and operations: mission-critical voice; location-based services including Indoor positioning, navigation, and mapping; public-safety analytics; research and prototyping platforms enabling low-cost R&D tools; and resilient systems.

The largest grant — early $2.27 million — went to New York University for an end-to-end research platform for public-safety millimeter wave communications. Vencore Labs, doing business as Applied Communications Science, received the second-largest grant at $1.96 million for a device-to-device system for public safety. Carnegie Mellon University received three grants one for $1.8 million for real-time video analytics for situation awareness, one for $782,000 for an infrastructure-free localization system for firefighters, and $642,000 for a hyper-reality helmet for mapping and visualizing public-safety data.

Numerous universities, including Texas A&M, with a $1.8 million grant for resilient communications and edge computing. received grants under the program. Other universities that received money included Cornell University, George Washington University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Michigan Technological University, Southern Methodist University, Spain’s Universidad del Pays VascoEuskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, University of California Irvine and Riverside, University of Cincinnati, University of Colorado, University of Houston, University of Oxford, University of Southern California, University of Virginia and the University of Washington. The University of Michigan received two separate awards.

Sonim Technologies was awarded $1.4 million and is teaming with Nemergent Solutions to deliver an open source platform that advances mission-critical voice by addressing both on-network and off-network end-to-end mission critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) on the Sonim XP handset. The solution will be a Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 13-compliant MCPTT platform with both client and server side elements that are fully seamless and interoperable with existing nationwide narrowband assets.

Nemergent Solutions developed the MCPTT application stack, which will integrate the core MCPTT protocol services on a new version of Sonim’s ultra-rugged XP handset.

The combination of Long Term Evolution (LTE)-based MCPTT and direct mode/off-network communications functions will be tested on Sonim’s PTT-centric Android handset by the Atlantic City (New Jersey) Police Department and first responders from the county of Fairfax, Virginia.

“New Jersey is one of only five early builders of the nationwide PSBN, so we’re an ideal partner,” said Chief Henry White Jr., Atlantic City Police Department. “These are the kinds of technology advances that will ultimately help us better serve and protect our community.”

Other vendors that received grants included Harris for proximity services, Prominent Edge for data analytics, Software Radio Systems for a radio platform, Misram doing business as Spectronn for heterogeneous fog communications, TRX Systems for location and mapping, and Voxel51 for public-safety analytics.

The Western Fire Chiefs Association received $1.7 million for a unified analysis framework and data comparison center. The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness received $1.7 million for the fiscal-year 2017 Public-Safety Innovation Acceleration Program.

Most of the grants are for two or three years. The Harris $200,000 grant is the only one-year award.

The grants are part of the Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program funded by NIST’s allocation from the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction. The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 provided NIST with $300 million to conduct an R&D program to help public safety overcome critical technical barriers, spur innovation and investment in public-safety broadband, and realize the full potential of wireless broadband capabilities.

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