First responders such as firefighters or paramedics often encounter hostile environments where they must perform strenuous tasks in conditions that can include reduced visibility, extreme heat or cold, and other hazards. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has sponsored a technology competition program to encourage the development of wearable technology that will benefit first responders. The agency has chosen the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) to run the EMERGE! competition.
In turn, CIT has tapped two technology accelerators to work with the applicants. Tech Wildcatters in Dallas, Texas and TechNexus in Chicago, Illinois will accept applications and choose the finalists. Each center will provide mentorship and other resources to the finalists throughout the summer, leading to a Demo Day in San Francisco, California in September. The competition will interpret “wearable” broadly, and will include everything from smart fabrics that can monitor a first responder’s physiological condition in the field to tracking devices and cameras that can improve situational awareness for the responders and their commanders. An emphasis will be placed on devices and systems that can work together, from sharing power sources to sharing displays and controls.
Applications are due in May, and the finalists will participate in intensive training and development sessions starting in June. While this competition is not likely to result in an immediately available product, it is hoped that the participating companies will be much closer to making their concept a commercial reality.