In its final round of major grant funding, NIST’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division has awarded more than $10 million to eight recipients for the Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program 2022 (PSIAP-2022) funding opportunity.
PSIAP-2022 aims to address some of the remaining gaps in the public safety research and development (R&D) space, specifically related to the Mission Critical Voice, Location-Based Services, and User Interface/User Experience portfolios. These awards are among the final cooperative agreements funded by the 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act and will go a long way to transform the way public safety does their job.
“These funding opportunity awards have played a huge role in PSCR’s commitment to advancing first responder communications and capabilities,” said Location-Based Services portfolio lead Joe Grasso. “We are excited to see the effect of these efforts on the public safety community.”
With projects spanning from indoor positioning systems, intelligent assistants, and mission critical communication platforms, the PSIAP-2022 awardees cover a broad range of R&D topic areas and target a key technology area that stakeholders have previously identified as being highly impactful. Each award recipient has strong connections with public safety partners, enabling them to collaborate regularly and openly with first responders over the course of conducting their research. Read below to learn more about each PSIAP-2022 award recipient.
Texas A&M University’s project develops a digital-twin-enabled testbed and advanced simulation models to provide a photorealistic virtual reality environment for first responders and emergency managers to engage, experience, and explore the latest sensing and communication technologies. In addition to serving as a virtual testing and training facility for first responders, the testbed can also function as an open platform for researchers and entrepreneurs worldwide to collaborate with first responders and emergency managers. This will make it easier to develop next-generation sensing and communication technologies and devices specialized for public safety usage.
Emergency responders need to understand the physical environment in which they are working. That includes knowing the location of personnel and equipment; presence of hazards and resources in the area; and availability of entry and exit routes. UC Irvine’s NEVERLOST technology aims to develop a self-contained positioning system and extend the capability of GPS for operation in GPS-challenged environments, even when the environment is not pre-engineered for navigation and a map does not exist.
TRACLabs is partnering with Porter Fire Department to develop a First Responder Intelligent Assistant (FRIA) to improve access to and sharing of information for decision makers, asset operators, and front line responders. FRIA will investigate three areas to support public safety. First, they will develop methods for spatio-temporal mapping that use data from multiple sources to curate a common operating picture for responders. Second, they will create contextual modalities to help determine what information should be presented and when is the right time to present it to a responder. Finally, they will craft public safety-specific push notifications to provide information about location, team members status, assets, rescue targets, and more. When these three capabilities are combined, TRACLabs’ project has the potential to greatly enhance first responder situational awareness.
JANUS’ project aims to reduce fire risk in the wildland urban interface (WUI) areas by providing augmented reality (AR)-based tools to first responders that assist in identifying fire mitigation strategies on homeowners’ properties. Their research aims to investigate ways to display wildfire mitigation recommendations on AR interfaces and develop machine learning infrastructure that provide artificial intelligence-assisted recommendations. As a result of this work, first responders can better visualize and identify different fire mitigation strategies, such as trimming down tree branches or seeing how far shrubbery should be cut back.
First responders face a number of challenges related to indoor navigation when approaching an emergency situation. For example, global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), do not work reliably in indoor settings. Furthermore, reliable communication infrastructure may not always be available, and accurate mapping and visualization of the building map may also not be available. George Mason University proposes to design, prototype and demonstrate a highly precise 5G-based Indoor Positioning System (5G-IPS) that addresses these long-standing challenges in emergency environments.
Nemergent’s BroadImPort project aims to address the challenges of standards adoption by introducing the concept of inter-agency operations planning and management. Through this project, Nemergent plans to create an MCX (voice, data, and video) intercommunication platform, fully based on 3GPP MCX standard procedures. As a result, Land Mobile Radio (LMR)-MCX systems can have greater interoperability capacity among differing agencies.
UNC Greensboro proposes FirstModulAR, a public safety AR project to accelerate the adoption of augmented reality user interfaces (AR UIs) by first responders. The overall goal is to use existing data in addition to systematic collaboration with first responders to identify areas where AR can most benefit public safety and investigate how to solve for challenges through a modular design approach.
WFCA is proposing a pre-planning camera-based product that will help fire departments know the layouts of buildings around a city, as well as the location of critical objects supporting their effective response, and potential hazards in advance of an emergency. The system will provide geo-located imagery outdoors and indoors, supporting remote and frequent virtual training for department members on critical structures within a city. It will also enable the department to obtain new information about structural changes on a regular basis to help improve on-demand pre-planning.
Though this is PSCR’s final major funding opportunity for the time being, the impact doesn’t stop here. The program is continuing to explore various research avenues, both internally and externally and will continue serving the public safety community with the tech tools they need most. To stay up-to-date with PSCR’s latest R&D efforts and their effect on first responders, opt in to the PSCR newsletter.