DHS Wants First Responders Wearing Tech

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is calling upon tech experts to develop wearable devices to improve first responder performance and efficiency

What Happened?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is calling upon tech experts to develop wearable devices to improve first responder performance and efficiency.


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is working with the Center for Innovative Technology to launch a pilot program to spur the creation of innovative wearable technologies for first responders. The EMERGE! Accelerating Wearable Tech for First Responders initiative is using business accelerators to engage entrepreneurs in designing unique technology resources to enhance the performance of first responders across the country.

The federal initiative has partnered with two accelerators in Dallas, Texas, and Chicago, Illinois, to host and support the pilot program that will attract a wide array of new ideas and innovators. The business accelerator partners will provide participants with a number of perks including:

  • Access to mentors and corporate networks
  • Product validation by first responders
  • Company and executive growth/leadership advisors
  • Participatory stipends

Six finalists will be chosen to undergo a two-month training program throughout the summer where ideas can be put into action. The wearable technologies proposed by applicants offer a variety of benefits to first responders such as:

  • Monitoring the health of first responders in real time
  • Protective fabrics for firefighters’ uniforms
  • Cameras that provide better situational awareness

The DHS wants to improve first responder access to new technology at the local level, as well as focus tech innovation toward the improvement of public safety agencies. Partnering with the business accelerators will provide early market validation, attract more private investment and commercialize the technology faster. By the end of the summer, the finalists should have prototypes of their wearable devices to demonstrate to government customers and investors.

Apex Program

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate recently launched a number of high-impact Apex programs to address security concerns through new technology development. The programs are designed to:
  • Combat security challenges
  • Support operational environments
  • Address future challenges with strategic and innovation solutions

The Next Generation First Responder Apex program aims to equip all first responders with resources and technologies that protect and connect teams to enable faster, more efficient responses to threats and disasters. These projects include development of:

  • Enhanced duty uniform
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Wearable computing and sensing technology
  • Robust communication networks

The Apex programs are the result of the Project Responder 4 report that identified 14 gaps in first responder capabilities. The goal is to have each of the capability needs improved through the application of technology solutions.

Safety LTE Network

The federal government has also teamed up with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to create an interoperable public safety broadband network. The goal of the public safety LTE network is to enable first responders from local, regional, state and federal agencies to view real-time information when an incident is in progress, as well as share data, images, video and voice communications with other agencies.

The network is designed to enable vital first responder capabilities such as:

  • Direct-mode: devices to communicate with one another without a cellular tower
  • Group communications: several responders communicating at once
  • Push-to-talk: speaking at the push of a button

Furthermore, the project wants to enable the designation of priority users, allow them to preempt others by downgrading services while establishing quality of service parameters to guarantee high-priority users can access necessary services.

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