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A Wearable Communications Hub Designed to Streamline and Improve First Responder Communication Capabilities


OBJECTIVE: Develop a high-level, scalable next-generation architecture and prototype for an intelligent communications interface device (also referred to as a communications hub) that serves to interconnect wearable technologies (e.g., video camera, sensors, heads-up displays) and voice communication tools to an array of radio communication devices carried by a first responder.

DESCRIPTION: Today, when a highly-trained first responder arrives at an incident scene, an array of communication tools such as land mobile radio (LMR), smartphone and other available communication devices and sensors can overwhelm and distract the first responder. The objective of the communications hub is to dissolve the barrier between responders and the many available sources of critical information.
The final goal is to integrate existing and emerging communications technologies already under development and sensors into responders’ protective garments and standard equipment, making each responder a mobile, wireless communications hub and sensor platform, linked automatically to a wide-ranging mesh network. For example, a first responder could send a video clip collected at an incident scene without specifying which wireless network will be used to transmit the video clip, and be given a notification whether the video clip was successfully transmitted. With the creation of a broadband network by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), public safety will have access to another broadband network in addition to their commercial provider, resulting in the ability for first responders to move seamlessly from one network to the other. The communications hub will further improve the situational awareness of the first responders in performing their duty of saving lives and protecting property.
To enable first responders to communicate seamlessly, a next generation communications system must include the following features: multimedia (support emergency responder’s requirement for voice, data and video services); user friendly (auto detection, connection and configuration of wearable sensors and tools, including an array of available wireless communication devices); scalable (can incorporate new devices by using standard communication protocol); streamlined (automatically select the optimum communication network medium for communication); resilient (store and forward information when communication resources are congested or unavailable); ruggedized (able to withstand different extreme environmental conditions); weight and size (must be wearable in lightweight, compact enclosure); and availability (battery will support a minimum of 8 hours of emergency response operation).

PHASE I: Develop a high level concept of operations for a next generation communications hub that supports a list of the various connected wearable sensors and tools and relevant use cases. The communications hub will also include a conceptual scalable next generation architecture supporting multiple networks (e.g., LMR, Commercial as well as Public Safety Broadband, Satellite, LTE deployable, Wi-Fi, etc.) connected to existing and theoretical first responder devices, along with a section outlining the technical feasibility and potential improvement in operations. The concept should embrace a standards-based approach.

PHASE II: Develop a detailed next generation technical architecture with width backward compatibility along with identifying and proposing relevant standards, and interfaces. Develop and deliver one or more working prototype(s) and conduct a pilot(s) and/or trial(s) to evaluate the operational use of the proof of concept. Include a comprehensive security assessment.

PHASE III: COMMERCIAL OR GOVERNMENT APPLICATIONS: Based on the pilots/trials, refine the prototype for possible inclusion into the current APEX program within the First Responder Group at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate.

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