DHS S&T Project Works to Bring IoT Technology to Public Safety by 2020
Tuesday, December 18, 2018 | Comments

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is bringing industry and government partners together to ensure smart city and internet of things (IoT) technologies are integrated and applied to meet critical infrastructure and first responder needs. The goal is to make smart city and IoT capabilities commercially available for industry, public safety and national security partners by 2020.

S&T’s Smart City IoT Innovation (SCITI) Labs in collaboration with the Center for Innovative Technology, TechNexus and Smart City Works focus on applying new and existing technologies to public-safety needs, with an emphasis on extensive validation and go-to-market support through industry partners. In its first year, the SCITI Labs partnership funded development and initial testing of several prototype technologies in three overarching program areas.

After a competitive selection process, 12 performers were awarded funding to develop initial prototypes of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), in-building sensors and a sensor and communications SmartHub. SCITI Labs, managed by DHS S&T’s Jeff Booth, identified new and existing public-safety technologies in these areas, assessed prototype capabilities and gained end-user and stakeholder input.

“We are looking to integrate and advance existing technologies applied to new challenges faced by first responders and the critical infrastructure commercial industry,” said Booth. “If we can address the commercialization hurdles, then adoption by both the responder and real estate communities will be more likely.”

In June, the 12 SCITI Labs performers began work on prototype technologies in the three capability areas, which were selected based on emergency responder operational needs. The UAS focus remained on indoor search and rescue, where missions in difficult environments, such as tunnels or collapsed or damaged structures, are difficult and endanger responders and those they aim to rescue.

For the in-building sensors, performers focused on developing 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 allow building operators to improve day-to-day operations and first responders to rapidly prioritize search-and-rescue areas when emergencies occur.

Finally, for efforts related to creating a SmartHub, performers focused on developing a body-worn responder interoperability platform 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.

Throughout this first phase, S&T and SCITI Labs ensured each of the technology providers have market access and development capital and that their technologies align with commercial opportunities in broader infrastructure-related industries. To achieve this, the partners work with industry to identify the best business approaches for transitioning these technologies into daily use.

“For us, it’s the ability to see what’s on the horizon,” said Ronald White from the Boston Fire Department. “To see what people are looking at developing in order for us to have an easier job doing what we do. It’s incredible what is out there and the amount of data we can accumulate and how people can give it to us in different ways to improve the way we do our job.”

The relationships built with these stakeholders are critical to the success of the SCITI Labs effort, as they will ultimately own the environment in which these technologies operate and will foster adoption by emergency responders.

The 12 performers incorporated feedback into final prototypes, which were then tested at the SCITI Labs Developmental Test and Evaluation (DTE) Event in October at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) using simulated search-and-identify scenarios to ensure they meet the needs of public-safety stakeholders. The stakeholders were also on hand to provide feedback about how each of the technologies will contribute to daily and emergency operations.

Booth explained that the results and findings of the DTE will inform the selection of phase two technology performers. Feedback from stakeholders will be used to refine the activities and objectives of phase two operational tests and commercialization activities.

SmartHub performers demonstrated GPS location, physiological sensors, hands-free communications and video streaming. The critical aspect of the SmartHub technologies was the ability to seamlessly move and share information up and down the chain of command.

In-building sensor performers demonstrated the ability to connect disparate capabilities in short periods of time, providing interoperability and timely information to inform decision-making. UAS performers demonstrated capabilities for mapping interior spaces using LiDAR and sonar capabilities. The ultimate goal of the UAS performers is to develop automated flight capabilities for degraded and confined spaces.

While the SCITI Labs technologies are at different stages of product maturity, a number of the technologies funded in phase one have already demonstrated impact in the market and to the public-safety community.

The second phase of the SCITI Labs initiative will launch in early 2019 with a more focused scope. Six performers will be selected to receive funding to execute additional product enhancements and operational tests with DHS components, responders and industry stakeholders. S&T and its SCITI Labs partners will work with performers to bring the technologies from prototype to market ready and to develop commercialization and adoption strategies.

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