In January 2023, eight NIST PSCR staff members received a Gold Medal Award at the 74th annual Department of Commerce (DOC) Honor Awards Program. This is the highest honorary award granted by the Secretary of Commerce, Gina M. Raimondo, and is defined by distinguished performance characterized by extraordinary, notable, or prestigious contributions that impact the mission of the Department. The awardees include John Beltz, Don Harris, Wyatt Suess, Roger Blalock, Lisa Soucy, Scott Ledgerwood, Ellen Ryan, and Jonathan Cook. This team was recognized for developing and deploying a Public Safety Communications Lab Network that has enabled innovative research and influenced commercial products.
While the DOC is dedicated to protecting America’s security and economic growth, creating a reliable, responsive, and thoughtful mechanism for testing and measuring public safety communications was a challenge. Therefore, an interdisciplinary NIST team pioneered the design and implementation of a state-of-the-art, secure communications Lab Network that could be deployed for research and innovation across NIST, the DOC, other agencies, and the scientific community worldwide. The Lab Network was conceptualized in 2015 and then implemented between the years of 2016 and 2018. It serves as the backbone for research across NIST communications technology projects along with non-NIST departments and outside agencies, such as the FirstNet Authority. The team set out to identify the technological gaps public safety officials experienced by collaborating with manufacturers, standards bodies, and end users. The nominees created a unique network architecture based on learnings from federal researchers and more than 55 Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) partners; informed building design and coordinated logistics; and collaborated across the DOC to ensure the cutting-edge capabilities met legal and Federal Information Security Management (FISMA) compliance.
As of 2020, the Lab Network was adapted to support undisrupted remote work, and upgraded to support mission critical voice and 5G research. In 2021, it was deployed to support the launch of FirstNet’s experience center, which is focused on testing and measuring virtual reality (VR) capabilities. Since 2016, there have been more than 2,200 lab visitors, including members of Congress, that have been able to experience cutting-edge technology demonstrations as a result of this system. The Lab Network has been a catalyst for the hundreds of federal and private researchers innovating public safety communications R&D and has also played a role in many scientific and economic impacts. This includes supporting the development of 483 LTE standards contributions for public safety services, testing of P25 phase 1 and phase 2 systems, evaluating interoperability between 700MHz LMR and LTE networks, and generally improving the way audio communications serve first responders.
While these are just a few of the team's accomplishments, you can learn more about the Lab Network, its accomplishments, and what’s to come on the PSCR website. And sign up for the PSCR newsletter to stay connected!