DHS S&T: VitalTag Delivers Faster Response Time for Paramedics

When mass casualty incidents occur — shootings, earthquakes, multiple-car pile-ups — first responders can easily be overwhelmed by the sheer number of victims. When every second counts, monitoring the vital signs of all the victims in a chaotic situation can be difficult. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics need a way to easily monitor multiple patients on scene, receive notifications when vital signs change for the worse, and share that information with everyone who needs it.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), in partnership with the Department of Energy (DOE) Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory (PNNL), has begun to seek out these kinds of solutions over the last few years. The first solution targeting medical responders — called VitalTag — began development about 18 months ago and is now past the prototype stage.

“VitalTag Technology can be a game-changing solution to DHS and first responder operations in both mass casualty and day-to-day operations,” said D’Arcy Morgan, DHS S&T Program Manager.

VitalTag, a suite of sensors, allows data to be shared among EMTs and paramedics at a disaster site. The VitalTag suite connects to a victim’s chest, with other sensors attached to the ear and index finger. It collects then broadcasts the victim’s vital signs to the team’s mobile devices, allowing them to prioritize their attention for those in need of the most urgent care.

“Existing solutions were not designed for an extreme environment,” said Grant Tietje, Senior Project Manager at PNNL. “Responders wanted a low-cost, disposable device that could be quickly applied to those kinds of situations.”

Today’s standard tools tend to be heavy and bulky, not portable, and not all-in-one. Early on, the team at PNNL surveyed the industry and struggled to find solutions that were both light, robust and cost-efficient. An all-in-one suite could vastly improve the process of detecting vitals in a fast-paced scenario. Many of the commercial-grade tools found by PNNL even helped keep production of a single VitalTag under $100.

“It is a resource multiplier,” said Dr. Luke Gosink, Team Lead at PNNL. “Yes, ambulances have these types of equipment, but usually only a few of each.  With VitalTag, many more patients can be monitored simultaneously and continuously. More situational awareness, like that achieved with VitalTag, can result in better patient outcomes.”

Another challenge was finding ways to alternatively collect data, such as blood pressure, in remote wearable fashion. Finding an affordable means of measuring blood pressure without using a cuff was difficult, but they were able to gather enough information to develop a means of doing so. To calibrate the VitalTag suite of tools, the team used its algorithms on open datasets, so the machines could learn trends for different metrics and establish a baseline.

Most of the testing up to now has been evaluation of the accuracy of vitals. A total of 25 devices have been created, 20 for DHS testing purposes and five for operational purposes. The 20 DHS devices can simulate emergency scenarios using the data collected, with different vital signs at different levels. This serves as a valuable tool for emergency medical responders, at least leading up to the release of an operational VitalTag suite.

“There was a very strong positive response from those who were able to see it in action. They asked where they could buy it,” said Gosink.

The current VitalTag prototype can monitor blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, blood oxygen, shock index, single-lead electrocardiogram and other metrics. These can be transmitted in real time to laptops, phones and tablets in the network. The data can be monitored from initial contact with a patient, all the way through to the patient’s recovery.

An attractive feature of the VitalTag system, which allows all of this to happen, is its multi-platform user interface, which displays all the important information in neat, comprehensive, interactive tables. Responders can use the visuals to triage patients quickly and reasonably. With the suite of VitalTag tools, information can be transmitted instantly from the disaster site, to the ambulance, to the hospital.

The benefits of VitalTag are yet to be seen in full, but if operationalized, this suite of digital tools could change the emergency medical response paradigm. VitalTag is an example of the power of data in securing the homeland, bringing different communities together for greater efficiency, and limiting the potency of threats to the public.

“Not only does it provide the opportunity to integrate data-flow in a timely and accurate manner, but it advances field medical services beyond traditional operations to a new frontier of patient care and incident triage,”said Morgan.

VitalTag was included in the Next Generation First Responder – Harris County Operational Experimentation event in early December. The efficacy of the prototype is currently being evaluated by PNNL in partnership with Anovaworks, an occupational medicine company. Evaluations will be performed to see whether measurements from VitalTag are consistent with those taken using standard medical devices.

*This is a fielded prototype technology that has not yet been approved by the FDA and is not commercially available.

Commenters Worry About Feasibility of MLTS Direct 911 Dialing

Commenters have generally supported the FCC’s goals in a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would require multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) to allow for direct dialing to 911 and to provide the location information of callers.  However, some parties expressed concerns about technical feasibility and overly prescriptive regulations that could inhibit innovation.

The FCC adopted the PS docket 17-239 NPRM in September pursuant to two new laws, the Kari’s Law Act and RAY BAUM’S Act (TR Daily, Sept. 26). The Kari’s Law Act, which was enacted in February, is named after Kari Dunn, who was killed by her estranged husband in 2013 in a Texas motel room as her daughter attempted to call for help but couldn’t reach 911 because she didn’t dial “9” first.

The Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, the leading developer of location accuracy technical standards, noted that while corroboration, where feasible, is an important part of validating dispatchable location information, there are complexities and costs associated with the validation of street addresses for MLTS, particularly in multi-building environments. ATIS commented that deploying equipment to validate and maintain the accuracy of dispatchable locations for MLTS on large commercial campuses would be cost prohibitive to enterprise owners and operators. ATIS expressed concerns that the “all platforms” approach could result in overly prescriptive regulations that inhibit innovation.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association also shared concerns about feasibility. The hotel and lodging industry commented that the FCC should take into account the complexity and technical difficulties for businesses to comply with callback number and granular dispatch able location requirements. An on-site notification requirement must be technologically feasible and ensure sufficient flexibility for hotels. The American Hotel & Lodging Association stated that the FCC should not adopt granular dispatchable location requirements at this time. Hotels typically do not install, operate, or manage a MLTS. The hotel and lodging industry also noted that the FCC should establish a uniform compliance date and provide sufficient time for businesses, including hotels, to contract for new equipment and service. Continue reading

S&T Awards $1.14M to Improve Cyber Data Privacy

WASHINGTON—The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has awarded a total of $1,149,900 across two organizations to develop new research and development (R&D) capabilities to enhance the management of privacy threats and vulnerabilities.

“Threats in cyberspace are constantly evolving and the frequency and impact of privacy-related breaches are increasing. Innovative solutions are needed to safeguard the privacy of critical information and data, as well as to prevent, mitigate and recover from the adverse effects of privacy incidents,” said William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology. “S&T is developing solutions to ensure the government end-user’s data privacy is protected and consistent with outlined laws, policies and mission.”

The Data Privacy project provides the Department’s operational components and other stakeholders with the R&D expertise and resources needed to enhance the privacy of their critical data. Specifically, the project focuses on privacy risks related to connected sensor devices and platforms, mobile computing, automation and autonomous systems and the delivery of digital services.

The awards were made through the DHS S&T Long Range Broad Agency Announcement.

  • The Regents of the University of Colorado, of Boulder, Colorado, was awarded $750,000 to develop the DronePD drone intrusion detection and tracking system.—also known as Unmanned Aerial Systems, whether authorized or unauthorized, pose increasing threats to the protection of sensitive data and activities of individuals, businesses and authorities as these devices can be used to infringe on privacy and interests. Detecting the presence of these drones is the first crucial step towards protecting sensitive data and activities. While drone detection systems currently exist, they are prohibitively expensive or require a dedicated radio frequency band to perform active scanning—making them ill-suited for civilian use. DronePD will provide a cost-effective, passive and easy-to-use drone detection and tracking system solution to help manage privacy risk.
  • Galois, Inc, of Portland, Oregon, was awarded $399,900 for FIDes Utility and Risk Assistant (FIDURA), which adds risk and utility profile support for the Framework for Information Disclosure with Ethical Security (FIDES) platform. FIDES is a scalable, fine-grained, technical disclosure control system for datasets, prototyped under the DHS Information Marketplace for Policy and Analysis of Cyber-risk & Trust (IMPACT) program. The FIDES platform reduces risk for data providers by keeping non-anonymized data cryptographically secure for its entire lifetime, while also providing high utility for analyses that require direct access to sensitive details in the data. FIDURA extends FIDES to offer two novel, inter-related capabilities: support for data providers and data analysts to specify the risk profile of allowing access to shared data, and support for data users to specify the utility profiles from that data to produce useful analytic results. FIDURA enables rapid decision-making that considers legal and technical elements of responsible data sharing in concert, a feature that is largely lacking in current privacy technologies.

“These additions to S&T’s Data Privacy portfolio address critical capability gaps for Homeland Security practitioners and instill trust in emergent technologies, “ said S&T Physical and Cyber Security Division Director Mary McGinley. “Support for these initiatives demonstrates how S&T is fostering responsible innovation to protect the nation’s people, infrastructure and assets while also protecting privacy.”

S&T’s cybersecurity mission is to enhance the security and resilience of the nation’s critical information infrastructure and the internet by developing and delivering new technologies, tools and techniques to defend against cyberattacks. S&T conducts and supports technology transitions and leads and coordinates R&D among the R&D community, which includes DHS customers, government agencies, the private sector and international partners. For more information about S&T, visit scitech.dhs.gov.

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, December 6, 2018

Looking Back and Looking Forward.  As we enter the 21st month of the 25-year contract between FirstNet the Authority and FirstNet (Built with AT&T), the last three of this year’s Public Safety Advocates will examine what has already transpired and what may lie ahead for FirstNet in 2019. As you read these three Advocates, keep in mind that had the contract been awarded to a vendor that was focused simply on building out Band 14 (the public safety spectrum), this vendor would only have been required to have 60-percent of the network built out in metro areas at this point in time.

Instead, the RFP winner, AT&T, offered up all of its existing LTE spectrum plus Band 14. This had a significant impact on public safety communications. First, today, only 21 months into the contract, FirstNet (Built with AT&T) is providing far more than 60-percent coverage in metro areas with full priority access including pre-emption where and when needed. Further, AT&T has stated that as it continues to build out its own LTE network, the FirstNet network will also have access and when it starts building out its 5G system, FirstNet will be part of that, too.

The questions I will ask and try to answer are about Push-To-Talk (PTT), both on- and off-network, coverage that still needs to be completed in metro, suburban, and rural areas, and finally what lies ahead for 2019.

All this will be weighed against goals that created FirstNet: To have a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) for public safety’s use including full pre-emption. We have not yet reached this goal but it is still in early in the development of the network. Some believe we can come close to achieving this goal but there will be some agencies that do not join FirstNet, at least in the next few years. I have to believe that as these agencies recognize the advantages of fully interoperable communications for the first time in the history of public safety communications, they will join in and this goal will eventually be realized.  Read the Entire Post here. Continue reading

NIST Eyes Cybersecurity of Public Safety Devices

The National Institute of Standards and Technology today published a draft report to explore ways to ensure the cybersecurity of the smartphones, tablets, and wearables that public safety officials are increasingly using on the job.

“Public safety practitioners utilizing the forthcoming nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) will have smartphones, tablets, and wearables at their disposal.  Although these devices should enable first responders to complete their missions, any influx of new technologies will introduce new security vulnerabilities,” NIST said.

“The overarching goal of this work is to identify security objectives for public safety mobile and wearable devices, enabling jurisdictions to more easily select and purchase secure devices and device manufacturers to design and develop them,” NIST added.

The report noted that public safety workers often use and transmit more sensitive information, such as medical data, than the typical commercial user.  NIST set a Jan. 7, 2019, deadline for comments on the draft report. — Tom Leithauser, tom.leithauser@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily

S&T Demonstrates Tech During Hazmat Scenario

Houston, TX – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is presenting a demonstration of integrating emergency response technologies during a simulated HAZMAT scenario at the Port of Houston on December 5, 2018. The Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) – Harris County Operational Experimentation (OpEx) will involve a coordinated response by Houston public safety agencies, FEMA, the U.S. Coast Guard and industry partners.

Over the past year, DHS S&T partnered with Houston-area public safety agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the DHS Office of Emergency Communications to identify technical capabilities that could assist first responders at the scene of an emergency. Situational awareness, responder physiological and patient monitoring, personnel location tracking, and enhanced communications were identified as priority concerns. The OpEx will evaluate how DHS-developed commercial and existing first responder technologies integrate during an emergency to fill these gaps while using open standards.

WHO:             Sponsor
DHS S&T Next Generation First Responder Program

Public Safety Agency Partners

                         Public Safety Agency Partners
United States Coast Guard
                         Federal Emergency Management Agency
                         DHS Emergency Communications Division
                         Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office
                         Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
                         Harris County Sheriff’s Office
                         Harris County Central Technology Services
                         Harris County Community Emergency Response Team
                         Houston Fire Department
                         Houston Police Department
                         Houston Information Technology Services-
                         Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department
                         Atascocita Fire Department
                         SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council

                        Technology Partners
 ARES Security Corporation
                        AT&T Corporation
                        Centrex Solutions LLC
                        FEMA Integration Public Alert and Warning System Office
                        Haystax, a Fishtech Group Company
                        Integrated Solutions for Systems, Inc. (IS4S)
                        Intrepid Networks, LLC.
                        Keys Net LLC.
                        Luna Innovations, Inc.
                        Metronome Software, LLC
                        MobileIron Inc.
                        National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory
                        N5 Sensors, Inc.
                        Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
                        SensorUp, Inc.
                        Sonim Technologies, Inc.
                        TRX Systems, Inc.
                        Utility Associates Inc.

WHAT:           Media availability and demonstration of the NGFR – Harris County OpEx

WHEN:          1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 5, 2018

WHERE:        1:00 p.m. – Remarks
                        Port Coordination Center (follow signs for Police Station)
                        Port of Houston, 111 East Loop North, Houston, TX 77029
                        1:45 p.m. – Technology Demonstration
                        Sam Houston Tour Boat Pavilion, 7300 Clinton Drive, Houston, TX 77020

To attend the press availability and demonstration, credentialed media must RSVP to NGFR@hq.dhs.gov by Tuesday, December 4, 2018 to register and receive a media packet and additional information about photographs and recording at the Port of Houston. Media must register on-site.  

S&T, Industry, Responders Partner, Address Security Concerns

Everyday across the nation, our first responders answer calls for help. We’ve all witnessed the heroic, coordinated efforts to respond to the California wildfires, the heartbreak of all-too-frequent active shooter incidents, and the daily dedication of law enforcement, fire fighters, and emergency medical services (EMS) to keep our communities safe and secure. Through it all, most of us rarely consider the technology first responders use to fulfill their mission and how that technology must work and integrate seamlessly into their operations to help them face increasingly dangerous threats.

DHS S&T’s Next Generation First Responder Apex Program (NGFR) works with public safety agencies to ensure the technology we research and develop for responders is not only innovative but has the capability to integrate with agencies’ existing technology. Beyond simply aiding responders in their mission, this technology can ultimately keep our responders better protected, connected and fully aware.

Over the past year, DHS S&T has worked with local Houston, Texas, public safety agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard to assess some of their technical needs. We asked these responders what threats kept them up at night, what capabilities they wish they had, and how we could improve upon their existing technology. Working with the agencies that helped Houston survive Hurricane Harvey, their priorities were improving operational communication, operational coordination, responder safety and overall situational awareness. The NGFR program team partnered with industry and worked tirelessly to address these concerns.

This week, DHS S&T heads to Houston where we’re working with public safety and industry partners to demonstrate the operational value of cutting-edge first responder technologies during the NGFR – Harris County Operational Experimentation (OpEx). Using open standards and guidance from the NGFR Integration Handbook, the OpEx will evaluate how DHS-developed, commercial, and existing first responder technologies will integrate during a multi-jurisdictional coordinated response to a HAZMAT scenario at the Port of Houston.

The goal of this OpEx is to advance first responder innovation by showcasing the promise and potential of the next generation first responder. To do this, DHS S&T and partners will assess the integration of Internet of Things sensors into advanced situational awareness platforms, investigate the technical requirements of a coordinated response during a disaster, and demonstrate how integrated solutions deliver greater operational impact for public safety agencies across the nation.

This is a great endeavor and could not have been accomplished without the time and dedication from our Houston-area and Harris County public safety agency and industry partners for their time, dedication, and determination for a successful exercise. Homeland security begins with hometown security. It is partnerships like these that help us show the world the future of first responder technology.