10 Regional Coding Events to Advance First Responder Technology
Wednesday, September 18, 2019 | Comments

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is collaborating with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research Division (PSCR) on the Tech to Protect Challenge, a coding project. This national challenge introduces coding contests designed to aid emergency responders in serving and protecting communities nationwide.

Participants will compete for cash prizes from a pool of $2.2 million.

With a series of 10 regional code-a-thon in-person coding events and an online contest, the Tech to Protect Challenge encourages widespread participation from students, researchers, inventors, entrepreneurs, technologists, programmers and software developers.

Tech to Protect invites public-safety personnel to participate by submitting their own solutions to the coding contests or serving as a knowledge resource for participants or a reviewer of participant solutions at code-a-thons near them.

The event includes two rounds of in-person code-a-thons, with the first round taking place Sept. 27 – 29 in Chicago; College Station, Texas; Denver; Pittsburgh; and Washington, D.C. A second round of code-a-thons will be held Nov. 1 – 3 in Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle.

Participants can submit projects under 10 contests or categories. Technical subject matter experts from FirstNet are leading three of the contests. FirstNet Authority Senior Apps UX Architect Shawn Shahidi is leading an augmented reality area. He said the contest will create dynamic and easy-to-navigate interfaces that give first responders quick access to up-to-date information about the vehicle design and construction. This helps first responders find the safest and most efficient way to rescue the passengers, save the victims’ lives and prevent injury to first responders during the extrication process.

“Besides being the only contest focused on saving lives during a vehicle accident, leveraging augmented reality to create a dynamic, configurable and easy-to-navigate interface for first responders to access and view information quickly on the scene of the incident makes this contest unique,” Shahidi said. “This could be the start of a wave of practical new applications designed specifically for public safety using advanced user interface technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality.”

FirstNet Senior Device Engineer Barry Leitch will lead voice commands to virtual assistants. Heads-up, hands-free technologies have been touted as capabilities needed for first responders to be more effective in a wide range of operational scenarios. The use of voice commands to control devices or to access information is a potential user interface advancement to provide this needed capability.

This contest has direct alignment to the development of advanced user interface/user experience (UI/UX) technologies for the benefit of public-safety personnel. UI/UX research is one of the key areas for PSCR’s public-safety research efforts, and the goal of this contest is to bring attention to the need for this type of development across the public-safety industry and with research organizations.

“Enabling voice command capability together with artificial intelligence support could be a game changer for developing highly effective hands-free user interface technology for our first responders,” Leitch said.

Sensor integration is led by FirstNet Authority Senior Public Safety Advisor Bill Schrier. He said many public-safety officers operate in hazardous environments without the benefit of a smart device that can monitor health and physical activity.

“Building the equipment and software to support this critical need will enhance operations while helping to protect those who sacrifice so much to keep our communities safe,” Schrier said. “This challenge will ultimately help save the lives of our responders by advancing technology to monitor their physical condition during very stressful situations.”

Motorola plans to host the Chicago event. A FirstNet blog with more information is here.

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