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About PSCR

Who we are

The Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division is the primary federal laboratory conducting research, development, testing, and evaluation for public safety communications technologies. It is housed within the Communications Technology Laboratory (CTL) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). PSCR is focused on driving research to advance communications technologies in support of the public safety community in partnership with stakeholders across public safety, industry, government, and academia.

PSCR 2022 Digital Brochure

To learn more about PSCR's mission, key research areas, critical partnerships, and impacts on public safety communication technology, read the PSCR 2022 Digital Brochure.

PSCR Strategic Accomplishments Digital Handout

See how PSCR leveraged $300 million to support American leadership in public safety communications research. View our strategic accomplishments resource.


Serving as an objective technical advisor and laboratory, PSCR is driven towards advancing public safety communications technologies by accelerating their development, adoption, and implementation so that the public safety community can more effectively carry out their mission to protect lives and property.

PSCR Themes graphic that reads "1: Advancing Technology, 2: Supporting Public Safety Communities, 3: Research-Driven, 4: Partnerships with stakeholders"

Driving research

PSCR conducts research at its lab in Boulder, Colorado, and also accelerates research by investing in external partners through grants, cooperative agreements, and prize challenge competitions. 

Advancing communications technologies

PSCR develops standards to ensure the telecom industry accounts for the unique needs of public safety users and produces measurement metric methods, software, datasets, and tools for stimulating future R&D in the public safety space and beyond. PSCR impacts include newly formed companies and partnerships, publications, patents, public safety methods, FirstNet store apps, and more.

Supporting public safety communities

PSCR works directly with first responders and the solver community to address the urgent need for new and improved technology which enhances the public safety community’s ability to respond to emergencies.

Partnering with stakeholders

PSCR regularly convenes a diverse group of stakeholders, acting as a nexus for influencing communications technology R&D so that public safety practitioners can get the next-generation capabilities they need to do their jobs more efficiently, effectively, and safely.

The history of PSCR

Since 2002, PSCR has worked to drive innovation and advance public safety communication technologies through cutting-edge R&D. In February 2012, the enactment of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act marked an unparalleled push toward next-generation technologies for public safety. The legislation contained landmark provisions for the development and build out of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), a dedicated, interoperable network for emergency responders.

The Public Safety Trust Fund (PSTF) was established to support the design and implementation of the Network. The Act charged NIST with utilizing up to $300 million of PSTF allocations to establish an R&D program to support the development and deployment of NPSBN. PSCR established the Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program (PSIAP) to drive R&D and transform public safety communications capabilities.

To learn more about PSCR’s history, watch the short film “The History of PSCR” in our Virtual Lab Tour.

Strategic vision

In 2013, PSCR initiated an R&D planning process to determine which technology investments were of highest priority to first responders. Over the course of three days, 150 public safety stakeholders convened to discuss new technology capabilities, feasibility, uniqueness, cost of investment, cost of ownership, and impact. The result was technology roadmaps, which informed the research/technology areas PSCR would pursue; these areas became the research portfolios which comprise PSCR’s division structure. To further socialize and validate the R&D Roadmaps with stakeholders, PSCR held Summits; these events and the resulting reports have informed PSCR research initiatives and provided crucial traceability back to public safety requirements and industry analysis.

Roadmapping was part of PSCR's strategic approach to R&D

Approach to R&D

PSCR uses a five-step practitioner driven approach to support technology advancements and validation processes:

  • Requirements – Gathering and defining public safety’s unique needs
  • Specifications/Standards – Developing quantitative requirements and open standards
  • Measurement and Data – Developing and implementing measurement tools and capabilities, collecting and analyzing measurement and test data, and dissemination of knowledge and data to public safety stakeholders and the general public
  • Transition – Promoting adoption of standards and standardized equipment through outreach, policy, tools, technical assistance, and grant guidance
  • Lessons Learned – Identifying issues from transitions that can be fed back into the process


PSCR's approach to R&D graphic including requirements, standards & specifications, testing & evaluation, transition, and lessons learned

Strength in community partnerships

PSCR's core communities and partnerships are fundamental to the success of the program. PSCR relies on its collaboration with public safety practitioners — fire, police, and EMS, industry, academia, and local, state, and Federal agencies to guide R&D initiatives. PSCR works to continuously engage these communities and communicate R&D progress and results, regularly through outreach events, our Annual Stakeholder Meeting, and reports.

Additionally, through extramural research, PSCR works directly with the solver community to address public safety’s urgent need to access the same broadband communications and state-of-the-art technologies that consumers on commercial networks now expect.

Key research areas

The following key research areas were identified as priorities through public safety roadmapping efforts. They are the Research Portfolios which comprise PSCR's research structure. Click an icon below to learn more about projects and goals for each area.

PSCR User Interface User Experience Icon
PSCR Analytics Research Portfolio icon
PSCR LBS Research Portfolio icon
PSCR Mission Critical Voice Research Portfolio icon
PSCR Security Research Portfolio Icon
PSCR Resilient Systems Research Portfolio Icon

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Created April 5, 2016, Updated October 27, 2022