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NIST launches new $1 million public safety challenge

The National Institute for Standards and Technology’s Public Safety Communications Research (NIST’s PSCR) division has unveiled a new public safety tech challenge—and in an unusual twist, it has enlisted the help of to promote awareness of the project.

The Command Dashboard Integrating Next-Gen Technology (CommanDING Tech) Challenge, which includes collaboration with and LMI, continues NIST’s work on developing smart and practical user interfaces that fit the needs of public safety users. In this case, the agency says in a release, the focus is on development of incident command dashboards that will “allow for real-time tracking of assets, personnel, and objects of interest during emergency crisis scenarios.”

“Incident Commands do not currently have a trustworthy, tested technology for responding to emergency situations, and instead currently rely on writing all emergency information by hand,” NIST said in announcing the challenge, which hopes to bring together first responders, public safety and video analytics experts and others to “advance and enhance the role of augmented reality interfaces in public safety” through dashboards that can be designed in AR, VR, web-based or mobile mediums, but have to be accessible for mobile use by first responders.

The four-phase challenge has a total prize pool of $1 million, with a final phase that will include live demonstrations of the participating prototypes. The first phase is a concept paper, followed by prototype development, then running the dashboards through an emergency scenario with simulated data, and finally, a live event in which the use of the competing dashboards are demonstrated through response to a stage public safety emergency in a multi-story building.

“Our grant programs and prize challenges help us make great leaps forward in solving public safety concerns by initiating collaboration with industry, academia and the public safety community,” said Dereck Orr, chief of the PSCR division. “The CommanDING Tech Challenge will encourage innovation for developing user-friendly, next-generation interfaces designed for and with public safety, while showcasing the latest capabilities of PSCR research areas like IoT, analytics, and location-based services. We can’t wait to see the innovators’ concepts and prototypes for public safety incident command dashboards.”

Other NIST prize challenges for public safety have included the $2.2 million Tech to Protect Challenge, data protection, the use of AR and IoT in public safety and multiple challenges related to the use of drones.

More information about the challenge and its requirements is available from (restricted to logged-in users) here.


Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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