PSCR Awards $810,000 in Tech to Protect Challenge Prizes
Friday, May 08, 2020 | Comments

The Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) awarded funding to contestants in the Tech to Protect Challenge, which launched in April 2019 and invited innovators and members of the public-safety community from across the country to team up and create prototype software solutions for emergency responders.

The Seed & Progress Round Contest could award up to $1.2 million, with $810,000 in awards made to contestants presenting May 1. Awards recognize the contestants’ business acumen, strategy and planning. This award comes in two parts — a seed award in May and a progress award in November based on the progress the contestant makes on their growth strategy in the six months between awards.

A total of 62 software prototypes were entered into the online contest, and the top 25 were invited to the May 1 National Award Event. Four teams were rated “excellent,” five teams were rated “superior,” and six teams were rated “very good.”

As an example, one team called Next-Gen MCPTT includes a researcher from both Rutgers University and the University of California, Riverside. The team received a “superior” rating and received $50,000 in total prize money.

The Next-Gen MCPTT team is addressing three issues with mission-critical push to talk (MCPTT) technology. First, messages can’t be stored and replayed, which wastes time having users repeating information. In addition, messages can’t be paused, and the chatter can be distracting. Finally it’s difficult to serialize speech over long-delay connections, such as satellite links. The team offers enhancements for all three problem areas.

In 2019, 10 regional codeathons were hosted to encourage participants and public safety to team up in person and work collaboratively. More than 230 contestants and more than 50 public safety, First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and PSCR representatives participated. As a result, 77 new software prototypes were created and assessed by judge panels, which included software experts, public-safety leaders, and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) PSCR researchers.

Awards made recognize the technical skills of contestants, quality and functionality of their software application, presentation skills, ability to design features specifically for public safety’s use, and potential for positive impact in the public-safety sector.

PSCR released the full list of challenge winners and prize amounts.

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