PSCR Newsletter Online Now

PSCR Insider: UI Researchers Create VR Environments Based on Physical Modeling, Plus More Articles Here

Awards Coming Soon: iAxis, MCVQoE PSCR will announce two awards as part of its Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program: the Mission Critical Voice Quality of Experience (MCV QoE) funding opportunity and i-Axis. We expect to announce these awards in just a few days. Bookmark the pages to stay updated about the winners.

Calling All First Responders: NIST Needs Your Feedback. NIST recently launched a nationwide usability survey on public safety communication technology and needs input from first responders. The 15-minute survey asks questions about the communication technology first responders currently use, need, and want in the future. If you’re a first responder, please help improve PSCR’s research by taking this survey.

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, February 14, 2019

Spreading the Word.  It’s Valentine’s Day! I hope it is a good one for all of you. Last week’s Advocate drew many good comments about the lack of press coverage of FirstNet. It appears as though this lack of news stories in local media has been noticed by others and that this will be changing sooner rather than later. So, I thought perhaps I would take a crack at writing an article for local news outlets including newspapers and perhaps even as a story of interest for local TV news shows.

To write an article in a newspaper that people want to read, it must start off with a catchy headline and the first paragraph must be a real grabber to hook people so they will want to read the entire article. Then, of course, is the old adage of tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. I learned the angles of newsprint journalism over the years of writing a newsletter for Forbes on Wireless Communications where I was coached by the best in the industry, and during thirty years of publishing variously titled thirty-six-page newsletters every month. However, writing for a news outlet where readers are not experienced in anything wireless besides their own cell phones and writing for an audience that is wireless-literate are completely different things. With that said, I will now take a crack at an article for a news outlet.

Public Safety Has New Partner to Fight Crime, Save Lives

We all use cell phones. We talk, text, and send pictures and videos to others with them, check the news, and stream movies. Cell phones are a way of life, delivering three or more means for conveying information to others. Meanwhile, the public safety community, using “Land Mobile Radio,” has had only voice to communicate with those in the field. Yes, they can and do use their own or agency-supplied cell phones when needed. However, during large events and major incidents, public safety had not been guaranteed access to networks congested with citizen’s calls. Read the Entire Post Here Continue reading

DHS Releases P25 CAB for 30-Day Comment Period

Project 25 Compliance Assessment Program seeks feedback on Compliance Assessment Bulletin for new program testing requirements.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announced the release of a Project 25 Compliance Assessment Program (P25 CAP) draft Compliance Assessment Bulletin (CAB) for review and comment. This draft CAB is available for public comment through March 14, 2019 and addresses P25 Baseline Inter-Radio Frequency Sub-System Interface (ISSI) and Console Sub-System Interface (CSSI) Conformance Testing Requirements.

This bulletin expands the P25 CAP’s testing scope to allow a more diverse set of equipment to become a part of the program.

Project 25 (P25) is a suite of standards that enables interoperability among digital two-way land mobile radio (LMR) and standardizes interfaces between the various components of the LMR systems that first responders use. P25 CAP is a voluntary program that allows communication equipment manufacturers to publicly attest to their products’ compliance through testing at DHS-recognized laboratories. All approved equipment is eligible to be purchased using federal grant funding.

After the comment period, DHS S&T will review comments, incorporate feedback, and finalize the CAB. The final CAB and adjudicated comments will be posted to the P25 CAP website. For more information, visit https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/p25-cap.       

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Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, February 7, 2019

Sometimes it can be a real challenge to come up with a subject I think would be of interest to my readers. This week seems particularly difficult. FirstNet is humming along ahead of its required build-out for Band 14 while Verizon continues to run expensive commercials in an effort to prove to public safety that it is the best network. We all remember how Verizon throttled fire personnel and equipment during wildland fires in California but it continues its attempts to divide the public safety community between it and FirstNet. Even so, FirstNet growth in terms of new agencies added in only the last three months, it is clear that most departments understand FirstNet is the “Interoperable Public Safety Network” dedicated to first responders while other commercial carriers are simply that: commercial broadband carriers.

The FirstNet network was not thrust upon the public safety community by network operators though some were certainly supportive of the process. Rather, it was the public safety community itself that came together to walk the Halls of Congress, battle with those in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) who did not believe public safety needed the additional spectrum known as the D Block, fight off both T-Mobile and Sprint, which at one point went as far as to put up a website to try to convince others that the spectrum should be auctioned as open to commercial networks. The public safety community, with assistance from then Vice President Joe Biden who was/is a staunch believer in public safety, fought for FirstNet from day one and it became THE public safety network.

this is not to say there are no detractors today, some of which have not become part of FirstNet and may not for a while. Several departments have balked at FirstNet (Built with AT&T) having a monthly data limit specified in its contract even though FirstNet has stated publicly that it will never throttle a public safety agency. It appears corporate AT&T requires the limit but FirstNet understands that under no circumstance can public safety be throttled, especially during an incident. This is one area that needs to be clarified so it does not keep more agencies from joining.  Read the Entire Post Here. Continue reading

DHS S&T Holds Operational Experiment in Houston

Washington, DC – More than 220 participants from 13 Houston-area public safety agencies and 20 industry partners tested first responder technology integration in a December exercise at the Port of Houston. Led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) – Harris County Operational Experimentation (OpEx) included the United States Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Office of Emergency Communications.

 The experiment integrated next generation first responder technology and safety agencies’ existing technology to assess their interoperability using guidance from the NGFR Integration Handbook.

“Our first responders face dangerous, evolving threats while often equipped with outdated and proprietary technologies that restrict their ability to communicate between agencies at the incident scene,” said Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology William N. Bryan. The December OpEx demonstrated how DHS-developed and commercial technologies integrated with existing public safety systems using open standards during a HAZMAT scenario. The OpEx also assessed how integrated capabilities enhanced operational communications, increased operational coordination, improved responder safety and augmented situational awareness.

“This was a rare and valuable opportunity for responders from different jurisdictions to get together and go through the paces of coordinating an effective, unified response to an escalating emergency,” Mr. Bryan said. “Communities rely on first responders and first responders rely on smart interoperable technologies to help them focus on their mission without distractions. Homeland security begins with hometown security and DHS S&T is working with first responders to increase community resilience and advance first responder technology.”

The experiment scenario included an offshore simulated fuel leak from ships in the port, tested technologies that included responder and patient physiological monitoring sensors, indoor location tracking, HAZMAT sensors, smart alerting for responders and incident command, advanced data analytics, and situational awareness and collaboration dashboards.

“This is the first true field test of technologies integrated through the NGFR Integration Handbook,” said OpEx Project Director, Sridhar Kowdley. “The OpEx was intended to help improve the communications pipeline between the incident command center and boots-on-the-ground responders so information can be shared to increase awareness and affect a coordinated response.”

The NGFR – Harris County OpEx builds upon NGFR’s series of integration demonstrations that test and showcase the interoperability of technologies currently in development. These demonstrations have evolved into exercises with partner public safety agencies across the U.S. and have produced materials to aid first responders and command centers to implement new technologies that address capability gaps.

The next operational experiment is scheduled for Summer 2019.

Continue reading

DHS S&T: SVIP Successfully Transitions Three Technologies to CBP

Three startups developing technologies with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) successfully transitioned their products to DHS and the Homeland Security Enterprise in 2018.

These three transitions are the first to come from SVIP, a program designed to connect DHS with startups and small businesses to seek innovative solutions for the most pressing threats facing the homeland security mission and to rapidly and effectively expand the range of technologies available to the Homeland Security Enterprise. DHS S&T launched the program in December 2015.

“By engaging with small businesses and startups, S&T has gained access to the previously inaccessible, cutting-edge innovations available in the commercial market,” said William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary of Science and Technology. “Each of the companies transitioning technologies developed innovative solutions that address real and pressing challenges faced by DHS. They have put in hard work, and S&T is proud to announce these successful transitions.”

All three companies transitioned their technologies into U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operations. It is no coincidence that CBP was the first component to procure or integrate SVIP performer technologies—it was the first operational component to collaborate with SVIP on the development of a topic call for new technologies. SVIP closely collaborates with DHS components to develop topic calls to ensure new projects accurately address operational needs.

“CBP partnered with DHS S&T to expand our innovation ecosystem by engaging with startup companies through the Silicon Valley Innovation Program,” said CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. “These successful transitions demonstrate CBP’s goal of delivering innovative and cutting-edge technologies that enhance the effectiveness of our border security operations and the safety of our frontline personnel.”

Tamr (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

Tamr was one of CBP’s “charter class” of initial companies under SVIP and was the first SVIP project to transition to CBP use.

First awarded by SVIP in December 2016, Tamr received its award to enhance the Global Traveler Assessment System (GTAS), a non-proprietary computer application available to partner countries that provide the capability to screen foreign travelers. CBP developed GTAS in accordance with UN Resolution 2178 to combat foreign terrorist fighters by using industry-regulated traveler information.  Tamr’s software allows for improved entity resolution—the analysis of multiple datasets to determine matches between entities, datasets and possible relationships—within GTAS. This technology is now fully incorporated into the system.

Tamr’s capability lives within the core GTAS application and helps users sort through data that appears to be the same, but are, in fact, different—a common challenge in the dynamic travel environment. In addition to the integrated code, Tamr also offers a free GTAS-specific license for additional functionality and a customization feature as an optional payable service. These additional offerings are available in the commercial marketplace, making Tamr the first SVIP portfolio company to commercialize their work.

Echodyne Corp. (Kirkland, Washington)

Another member of the charter class, Echodyne was first awarded by SVIP in December 2016. Echodyne Corp. created the Metamaterial Electronically Scanning Array (MESA) radar system. This system uses metamaterials—engineered, artificial materials with properties not found in nature—to build a new architecture for an all-electronic scanning radar system. The use of metamaterials means MESA has significantly lower cost, size, weight and power-usage than other radar systems.

The compact, lightweight MESA radar units have the potential for multiple applications in a variety of border security scenarios. CBP procured a pilot quantity of MESA radar units and intends to test their efficacy in two programs and evaluate them for the ability to improve border situational awareness.

In addition to this testing, Echodyne’s solution is currently being used as the primary detection and cueing component on autonomous surveillance towers currently deployed in the San Diego Sector . These towers are being piloted with the potential of incorporation into border surveillance programs.

Following additional testing, CBP has considered procuring additional radar units over the next three years. Echodyne’s work could directly support both land and maritime enforcement systems, a transition made possible through the partnership between CBP and SVIP.

DataRobot, Inc. (Boston, Massachusetts)

DataRobot was originally awarded in September of 2017 and is the youngest of the SVIP projects to transition. This year, CBP procured pilot licenses of DataRobot’s capability for the GTAS. DataRobot applied automated machine learning (AML) to GTAS to expedite the development of predictive models.

Currently, the time required to develop predictive models places those models at risk of being outdated before they are completed. By applying AML to this development process, DataRobot is able to produce models faster and more accurately. AML is also easier to use than traditional machine learning—it can automatically complete complex tasks while simplifying the user experience.

DataRobot’s technology is now being used to help CBP conduct the counter-narcotics mission, identify ways to improve the facilitation of lawful trade and travel, and develop and test synthetics datasets to further spur CBP innovation.

So What?

“These transitions are proof of the power of collaboration between DHS and startups and between SVIP and operational components like CBP,” said Melissa Oh, SVIP Managing Director. “With dozens more companies currently in the program, we can expect more transitions in 2019.”

Continue reading

Senate Bill Would Establish ‘Cyber Hunt’ Teams at DHS

Sens. Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) and Rob Portman (R., Ohio) have reintroduced legislation that would require the Department of Homeland Security to establish “cyber hunt” and “cyber incident response” teams to protect federal government and private sector networks.

The DHS Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams Act (S 315) is the latest version of a bill that cleared the House last congressional session but fell short in the Senate.  It would require DHS to maintain its existing cyber hunt and cyber incident response teams to help asset owners and operators restore services following a cyber incident.

The teams also would identify potential cyber intrusions and cyber risks; develop mitigation strategies to prevent, deter, and protect against cyber threats; and provide recommendations to asset owners and operators for improving their network security, according to the senators. Continue reading