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.

FCC Highlights 911 Actions in 2018

In a blog posting today, Lisa Fowlkes, chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, highlighted actions that the agency took in 2018 on the 911 front and noted that much of the work will continue next year. “There is no higher priority at the FCC than promoting reliable 911 service,” she said.

“As we approach the end of 2018, I thought I’d recap our work this year to strengthen emergency calling and highlight some of our next steps for 2019.” Ms. Fowlkes summarized FCC proceedings on multi-line telephone systems, 911 call routing, and 911 location accuracy and said the bureau is finalizing its latest report to Congress on state diversion of 911 surcharges.  “Lastly, I want to emphasize that strengthening 911 is not the FCC’s job alone; it’s a team effort,” she said. “In 2019, we will continue to work collaboratively with public safety organizations, government partners, industry, public interest groups, and other stakeholders on this important mission.”

Courtesy TRDaiy


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

Horowitz Eyes FirstNet 2.0, Board Meeting With New Members

Edward Horowitz, the new chairman of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board, said the authority plans to discuss a “new vision” on Thursday at the first meeting of its newly constituted board.

In September, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reappointed Mr. Horowitz to a three-year term and appointed him chairman of the board (TR Daily, Sept. 5). He succeeded Sue Swenson, who was term-limited in leading the board and, along with Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson, resigned from FirstNet in August (TR Daily, Aug. 20). Mr. Horowitz named Hennepin County, Minn., Sheriff Richard Stanek as vice chairman of the board (TR Daily, Sept. 24). Mr. Horowitz joined the FirstNet board in 2015 (TR Daily, Aug. 19, 2015), and Sheriff Stanek was appointed in 2014 (TR Daily, Sept. 4, 2014).

In October, Mr. Ross announced the appointment of five new board members and the reappointment of Neil Cox (TR Daily, Oct. 31). The appointments brought the board to a full complement of 15 members for the first time since the end of 2016, when Barry Boniface resigned. Mr. Ross today officially swore in the new and reappointed board members

In an interview, Mr. Horowitz told TR Daily that he’s looking forward to Thursday’s meeting of the newly constituted board. The session will be a joint meeting of the board and its four committees. The meeting is scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center, 7901 Tysons One Place, McLean, Va.

FirstNet has released the committee assignments for board members. Mr. Horowitz, who most recently chaired the Finance Committee, will chair the Governance and Personnel Committee. Robert Osterthaler will chair the Finance Committee, Mr. Stanek will chair the Public Safety Advocacy Committee, and Mr. Cox will continue to chair the Technology Committee.

Mr. Horowitz, a venture capital and technology industry veteran who is currently founder and chairman of Edslink LLC, a venture capital firm, detailed several FirstNet activities that have kept him busy since he was appointed board chairman.

He noted that he worked with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, where FirstNet is housed, to finalize the new board appointments and to develop a process to hire a new permanent chief executive officer to replace Mike Poth, who left in September (TR Daily, Sept. 5) (Ed Parkinson is the acting CEO); named Sheriff Stanek as vice chair; appointed Todd Early chair of the board’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (TR Daily, Nov. 20); made committee assignments; and met with representatives of major public safety groups, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Sheriffs’ Association, and Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International. 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

FCC Grants WEA Waiver to Virginia

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau today granted a waiver in PS dockets 15-91 and 15-94 to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to conduct wireless emergency alert (WEA) tests on Dec. 12 for the Surry Nuclear Power Station and Feb. 20, 2019, for the North Anna Nuclear Power Station (TR Daily Nov. 30).

Courtesy TRDaily