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Public Safety Innovation Impacts

The Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act marked an unparalleled push toward next-generation technologies for public safety by allocating $300 million to accelerate cutting-edge communications research. NIST's Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division delivered public-private partnerships that drove research and development of critical, life-saving communications capabilities for first responders.

A 2023 Executive Summary provides key stakeholders with relevant information about how PSCR spent Public Safety Trust Funds and the impacts of that funding. Furthermore, this report seeks to demonstrate the value and positive outcomes of a one-time injection of funds into a topic area and the extent to which this model can be repeated in other areas of significant impact, like semiconductor supply or climate change. Read both the Executive Summary and the Full Report below.

NIST PSCR investment

With limited time and a federal team beginning with only 31 full time employees in 2016, PSCR sought partnerships to join their mission. While PSCR was allocated $300M, the following analysis is presented in 2022 dollars to effectively compare economic impact over time.

In 2022 dollars, PSCR invested $348.76M between internal research, external research, prize challenges, and commercialization. With the funds’ expiration, PSCR sought to better understand how their R&D investments resulted in economic impacts that rippled outward to state economies.

According to the Economic Impact Analysis, PSCR allocated $239.95M to internal research, generating an estimated 3,000 jobs in the U.S. economy.

Utilizing grants and cooperative agreements, PSCR supported a total of 83 funding opportunities, 77 of which were U.S.-based and 6 of which were international. PSCR invested $108.76M total in external awardees, with $98.62M spent domestically and $10.14M spent internationally. An estimated 2,782 jobs were added to the economy as a result of PSCR’s support of domestic external research. However, the impact of international awards was not assessed in the economic report.

Employing prize challenges, PSCR invested $5.19M, supporting the award of 184 teams and adding an estimated 233 jobs to the U.S. economy. As with grants, while 5 international teams participated, their contributions to the economy were not formally assessed.

Finally, PSCR also supported two SBIR Phase 3 awards at a total investment cost of $5.01M, leading to an estimated 51 part time and/or full time jobs.


Sunburst Chart of NIST PSCR investment per portfolio from 2016 to 2022

Research area highlights

User Interface/User Experience

  • 6 testbeds developed
  • 13 VR scenarios developed and 35 unique AR prototypes across 4 incidents and 2 perspectives
  • Usability evaluations and feedback gathered from more than 730 first responders
  • 600 first responders anticipated to use awardee NextGen Interactions’ VR training products
  • External awardees fostered formal partnerships with 49 public safety organizations
  • 1 SBIR Phase 3 for TRACLabs Inc. 

Mission Critical Voice

  • 6 prototype measurement systems developed
  • 1 new software-defined radio company generated by awardee New York University
  • Completed NR ProSe discovery and Layer 3 implementation for ns-3
  • 4 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) developed to support Public Safety MCV
  • Enabled the interworking between LMR to LTE
  • 1 SBIR Phase 3 for Catalyst Communications Technologies, Inc. 

Location-Based Services

  • Over 4,461,000 square feet of indoor space mapped
  • Datasets from 28 mapped buildings published by external awardees
  • 1,000+ views/downloads of the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) Best Practices Guide to Indoor Mapping, Tracking, and Navigation
  • 7 academic, industry, or public safety trainings implemented on LBS capabilities
  • 75+ students at a graduate level or higher trained on LBS capabilities as a result of federal funding
  • 1500 miles of roadways mapped 


  • 90+ software resources identified so far
  • 2 studies developed
  • Awardee Western Fire Chiefs Association developed a cross-department fire database and analysis sharing network used by more than 30 organizations
  • Automated Streams Analytics for Public Safety (ASAPS) dataset published, featuring:
    • 8 continuous hours of activity with 150 actors
    • 42 synchronized data streams
    • 29 camera views
    • and data inclusive of 911/dispatch audio communications, social media streams, and gunshot sensor data


  • 3 identity vendors adopted PSCR Mobile SSO standards and best practices
  • Contactless fingerprinting success rates improved from 70% in 2019 to over 90% in 2022 through performance enhancements achieved through the mFIT prize challenge
  • Fortify Edge developed a continuous authenticator on a Google WearOS smartwatch using Fast ID Online (FIDO) 2 and other SIM Challenge innovations
  • NCCoE Lab completed four-way non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) between NIST, Axon, Datamaxx and CommSys 

Resilient Systems

  • Resilient data sharing tool developed by awardee Michigan Technological University successfully transfers files up to 150MB with no interruption at 100-yard distance
  • Emergency communications framework developed by awardee University of California Riverside delivers 81.93% of all disaster-relevant social media posts to first responders
  • UAS continuous flight time increased from 18 to 112 minutes with a 10-lb payload, gas-electric or hydrogen cells
  • UAS delivery of real-time data using machine learning for search and rescue operations 

Additional resources

Explore the other supporting documentation of PSCR’s impacts and how their R&D program has supported the deployment of public safety technology while simultaneously positively impacting the United States economy.

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Created February 4, 2021, Updated February 23, 2024