NIST Tech Contests: IoT and AR for First Responders

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is sponsoring a dual track national competition to spur innovation of Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR) technologies for the country's first responders, with up to $1.1 million in cash prizes.

The CHARIoT Challenge invites "startups, developers, data gurus, engineers, and user experience experts" to develop solutions that deliver first responders augmented reality interfaces that leverage IoT data streams from buildings and city sensors. Solutions must be designed to assist first responders in four emergency scenarios: wildfires, floods, active shooter situations, and tunnel collapses.

"Police, fire, and emergency medical services crews cannot respond efficiently without proper situational awareness," NIST said in a statement. "Up to now, they've relied on eyewitness, radio, and traditional communications channels for information. But IoT devices, smart buildings, and smart cities also have the potential to provide tremendous amounts of information that remain largely inaccessible by first responders and incident command officers."

The IoT track ("Emulate Smart City Data for Disaster Scenarios") requires contestants to emulate accurate smart city and public safety personal area network data by first determining which sensors would be most useful for first responders, and then creating data transmitters of the sensor data based on the provided emergency scenarios.

The AR competition (Build Augmented Reality Interfaces for First Responders") requires contestants to conceive and design AR interfaces for two public safety users: incident command officers and boots-on-the-ground first responders.

The top selected data streams developed by IoT contestants will serve as a core data infrastructure for high performing AR contestants as the two tracks converge in a final live event competition at a public safety training center.

NIST is rolling out the competition in four phases. Phase 1, underway now, invites eligible participants to submit a concept paper and video "outlining their proposed team's solution, approach, capabilities, knowledge and skills for this contest." This phase is open to any eligible contestant. Former NIST Public Safety Communications Research Division (PSCR) federal employees or associates are not eligible. Submissions are due by May 6th. The competition ends in November of this year.

Up to 12 contestants will be eligible to participate in Phases 2 and 3 of the IoT competition, and up to 30 will be eligible for the AR contest. Phase Four will be open to up to 4 IoT competition contestants and up to 15 AR contestants.

In Phase 2, IoT contestants will participate in a challenge kickoff webinar, during which NIST's PSCR will describe the four emergency scenarios, the corresponding public safety tasks for each emergency scenario, and how the emulated data would be utilized in Phases 3 and 4. The rest of Phase 2 focuses on contestants' creation of the emulated sensor data and demonstrating the transmission of these data streams for at least two of the four emergency scenarios.

In Phase 2 of the AR competition, contestants will be trained in the use of hardware from contest partner Magic Leap and public safety use-case training to develop or enhance an AR interface prototype for evaluation.

In Phase 3, IoT contestants collaborate with external public safety mentors and advisors to finalize their emulated data for the four emergency scenarios. Contestants will submit a wireless network and their data transmitters pre-configured for the four emergency scenarios for evaluation. AR contestants create their AR interfaces in collaboration with their public safety agency. Those interfaces must be designed holograms for the incident command perspective and heads-up displays for use by first responders.

In Phase 4, each IoT contestant will have the opportunity to present their emulated data sensors (a minimum of five per emergency scenario) to the AR developers during a webinar. And the AR contestants will face an interactive test of their AR interfaces at a public safety training center. Contestants will have access to both the NIST PSCR provided dataset and the final IoT contestants' datasets.

NIST held a similar competition last year ("Haptic Interfaces for Public Safety Challenge").

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].