PSCR’s June Event to Offer Hands-On Access to Public-Safety Innovation
Friday, April 13, 2018 | Comments

The Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) staff is gearing up for the annual Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting with some big changes planned for the 2018 event. More than 450 attendees are expected to converge at the San Diego Convention Center Jun 5 – 8, said Dereck Orr, PSCR chief.

The event, now in its 10th year, has been extended to four full days with more sessions and information from the group’s many prize and challenge winners and grant recipients. PSCR gained $300 million for public-safety communications research and development (R&D) as part of the 2012 legislation that created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).

PSCR, which in January moved into a newly renovated building in Boulder, Colorado, now has 45 full-time staff.

PSCR has organized its work into six technology areas and has offered grants and cooperative agreements, as well as prizes and challenges, around those R&D initiatives. They include mission-critical voice, location-based services (LBS), data analytics, user interface and experience, security and resilient systems. The June conference will highlight the latest innovations in each of these areas.

During the conference, Tuesday will be a traditional day with Sue Swenson, FirstNet chairwoman, and San Diego Fire Department Chief Brian Fennessy as keynote speakers, along with presentations from PSCR employees. In the afternoon, four concurrent sessions will overview the main topics of mission-critical push to talk (MCPTT), LBS, analytics and user interface/experience.

There will be a networking hour at the end of each day based on feedback from past conferences, Orr said.

On Wednesday and Thursday, attendees will go straight into sessions with four concurrent sessions running 50 minutes each with a 10-minute transition. “Every one of our grantees will have 50 minutes to go in-depth into what they are doing,” Orr said. “Each day can support 24 sessions. There will be no repeats, and mission-critical voice and LBS each have two full days of sessions, but all areas are covered.”

Friday will see attendees back into a plenary in the morning with a keynote from FirstNet CEO Mike Poth. There will also be a panel with AT&T and FirstNet representatives. There will also be a plenary with prize challenge winners. In the afternoon, there will be networking and demonstrations from 30 different grantees and prize winners that are bringing equipment. PSCR will also have its own technology demonstrations, with about 35 to 40 demos total happening.

“There will be lots of time to get hands-on and see what the grantees have,” he said.

Concurrent with the conference, the winner of the PSCR’s virtual reality (VR) prize competition to create a concept for a heads-up display with unimpeded visual aids will be announced.

PCSR staff created a VR in-building environment that participants will navigate. The prize participants are building a heads-up display to get the user from point A to B. Seven contestants of the original 18 are still in the challenge. About five of the contestants will attend the conference. On Wednesday, Judges — including Orr and FirstNet Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Jeff Bratcher — will evaluate the proposals to get through the building based on time and other evaluation criteria. After the winner is announced Friday, attendees can demo the VR and heads-up displays in the afternoon.

PSCR is conducting a drone challenge before the conference in May in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The participants will test how ground-up, nontethered prototype drones can fly payloads of Long Term Evolution (LTE) gear in a box weighing about 30 lbs. The event will test which drones can maintain their flights the longest and other criteria. A drone that can maintain airtime of six to seven hours with the payload becomes a legitimate platform, Orr said.

“Those prize winners will be at our conference in June to show their technology and participate on a panel,” Orr said.

In March, the group announced a data de-identification prize competition where participants will propose a mechanism to enable the protection of personal identifiable information (PII) while maintaining a dataset’s utility for analysis.

“A lot of public-safety data has PII so it is highly sensitive,” Orr said. “Participants will create an algorithm to take out the PII in a dataset but leave behind the important information to make decisions. Users can then feel comfortable that no critical information is being shared, but analytic engines can do their things.”

A new VR and augmented reality (AR) grant program is also underway. The program is now in the review process and will award $5 million to multiple awardees.

The grant covers VR and AR technology development to improve testing and developing some VR content for public safety in three scenarios, including a subway fire, a futuristic police stop and a cardiac arrest incident. Another goal is to conduct research on testing and developing user interfaces within 10 areas such as how to induce physical strain and overload. Winners should be announced by June so they can attend the stakeholder event and give 20-minute pitches on their proposals.

“There will be a lot of technology at the conference for people to touch and really engage with — to see and touch the stuff we’ve been working on,” Orr said.

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