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Networking Platform for Real-time Communication of Personnel Health Status and Location during Shipboard Emergencies


OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Advanced Materials; Human-Machine Interfaces; Integrated Sensing and Cyber


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: Develop a prototype networking platform capable of relaying real-time information on personnel health status and location during shipboard damage control activities. This platform should be fully capable of pushing continuous data steams through shipboard spaces to Surface Forces supported wireless systems, such as ship’s Wi-Fi, land mobile radio (LMR) leaky coax antenna system, or the Command Readiness, Endurance and Watchstanding (CREW) platform hardware and integrating data into a flexible graphical user interface (GUI) positioned at command and control nodes throughout a ship and robust data management and analytic capabilities for post-event assessments (e.g., mishap investigations).


DESCRIPTION: Due to new enemy weapon systems (e.g., hypersonic missiles) and the heightened risk for engagement at-sea with near-peer adversaries, shipboard combat-related emergencies and subsequent damage control response capabilities will be a defining feature of future US Navy operations [Refs 5, 6, 7]. Damage control (DC) activities involve containment of shipboard damage; managing consequences; recovery capabilities; and sustaining the ship’s combat effort [Refs 1-4]. DC activities include firefighting; flood control; structural support/repairs; combat system repair; ordnance clearance; and causality care [Refs 1-4]. These activities are largely performed by Sailors trained in various DC functions and conducted in the extremely hazardous conditions present in damaged shipboard compartments [Refs 1-4]. Hazards may include exposure to extreme heat (> 1500 °F at point of fire), burns, and inhalation of smoke and/or toxic compounds [Refs 1-4]. DC crew casualties may prevent efficient or complete damage containment and repair which may lead to loss of ship and high casualty rates among the ship’s crew during combat operations. The goal of this SBIR topic is to optimize DC responses and mitigate crew casualties by developing a capability to automatically relay DC responder health/equipment stati and movement/location data within shipboard spaces and provide real-time actionable data streams to shipboard emergency response command nodes, such as DC Central and/or the bridge. Such capabilities are required to enable more efficient utilization of personnel resources during DC operations; more efficient containment/repair of combat damage to ships; and reduced casualty rates among shipboard personnel.


Current systems utilized aboard US Navy ships for communication between DC teams and command nodes consist primarily of verbal communications and sound power telephone circuits augmented by short-range radios and ship’s intercoms [Refs 3, 4]. Tracking of damage, personnel movements, and damage containment/repair progress is currently conducted by command node personnel via hand annotation of whiteboard schematics of shipboard spaces in response to input through standard communication circuits and ship-integrated environmental sensing systems [Refs 3, 4]. Currently no automated real-time system for comprehensively tracking DC responses on Navy ships exists [Ref 6]. This recognized capability gap prompted Naval Surface Warfare Center – Philadelphia Division to develop the prototype Advanced Damage Control System (ADCS) designed to track shipboard damage and containment/repair progress with inputs from environmental sensors and DC crew annotation of a portable tablet-based interface positioned at damage scenes that is designed to exploit the Wi-Fi capabilities of next generation combat ships [Ref 6]. However, the ADCS has not been designed to directly or automatically provide real-time tracking of DC crew health status and location/movement during DC operations.


Technical challenges/requirements:

1) The essential requirement for successful responses to this topic call will be development of a prototype networking platform capable of real-time relay of DC crew health status and location/movement during DC activities and communication of actionable data streams to shipboard command nodes.

2) A major limitation encountered by platforms designed to transmit data from handheld or wearable devices onboard ships is the difficulty with radio transmission through metal bulkheads, aka the ‘metal box problem’ [Refs 1, 3, 6]. Communication security concerns also restrict decentralized data transmission tolerance aboard ships [Refs 1, 3]. Thus, the prototype platform must be capable of integrating into modern shipboard wireless communication systems and may require innovative approaches to meet all general DoD and US Navy afloat-specific cybersecurity requirements. Ship Wi-Fi or systems, such as CREW, which utilizes networks of centralized hubs placed strategically throughout ships, are capable of receiving inputs from wearable monitoring devices and pushing aggregate data to GUI dashboards for command view. Though not necessarily designed to collect data from personnel in every shipboard space, such systems represent a potential relay point for DC-specific tools to move data streams from wearable sensors on DC personnel out of shipboard spaces to command nodes. Successful respondents to this topic will develop a prototype platform that networks with established wireless systems through portable or wearable hardware that does not require structural modification to shipboard spaces; develop all software required to integrate data from prototype hardware to established systems allowing for continuous data processing; and develop all software required to display real-time summary data of DC crew health status and location/movement on dashboard type interface.

3) Further, due to the unique suite of environmental and procedural factors inherent to shipboard DC, identifying key biometric factors that are most relevant to shipboard DC crew performance decrement and safety, and thus summary ‘health status’, remains an active area of research. As such, the resulting prototype platform does not require unique sensor development and must be functionally agnostic to biometric sensor choice and amenable to post-development selection/substitution of sensors.


PHASE I: Demonstrate feasibility of a proof-of-concept networking platform that is capable of real-time relay of DC crew health status and location/movement during DC activities and communication of actionable data streams to shipboard command nodes through limited laboratory testing/demonstrations. The resulting platform should be capable of pushing and relaying data streams within and through bulkheads of modern US Navy ship compartments to established wireless systems, and may consist of portable or wearable pucks carried to damage sites by DC crew or other innovative solutions. Further the platform should be fully functional in ambient temperatures up to 150 °F. Provide cost-effective design and reliability estimates, to include lifetime cost estimate and service life expectancy. Phase I deliverables in addition to standard Phase I deliverables outlined in the BAA, will include: 1) design plans for the prototype platform based on the Phase I proof-of-concept design; 2) an RDT&E plan to develop and validate the final platform in Phases II-III; and 3) a preliminary prototype (physical or virtual) that is capable of demonstrating feasibility of the Phase I proof-of-concept design.


PHASE II: Develop, demonstrate, and validate the prototype networking platform based on the Phase I proof-of-concept design. The resulting platform should be able to perform collection and analysis of data under the relevant environmental conditions (as cited in the Description and Phase I sections). The platform should be capable of processing data continuously for 48 hours or longer utilizing on-device processing, and include all software required to integrate data from prototype hardware to established wireless systems. Platform outputs must be integrated into flexible GUI dashboard-type displays that can be positioned throughout ships for command monitoring of DC crews. Resulting prototype platforms will be tested on human participants at US Navy DC training centers or other acceptable fire training facilities which may include civilian firefighter training centers. The Phase II platform design may be intended for experimental or training use and need not be fully adapted and ruggedized for operational use. Phase II deliverables will include: 1) at least 2 prototype units; and 2) detailed design specifications and technical data package drawings that ensure IP protection.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: ONR will support the small business with transition of a resulting successful prototype platform for additional development to the Naval Advanced Medical Development and/or the Naval Sea Systems Command 05P5 DC/PPE Tech Warrant Holder, which maintains DC equipment authorized for Naval use. Discussions with corresponding POCs at these offices have been initiated and are ongoing. Operationally relevant conditions will likely necessitate additional development and testing of the platform, which may require greater temperature tolerances, extended data collection, and/or enhanced security capabilities. A successful respondent to this topic call shall support the US Navy in developing the resulting technology for use across the full spectrum of operationally-relevant conditions/environments and account for applicable ship-class specific variations that might impact functionality (e.g., in-hull designs and metallurgy). The small business shall also develop a plan to commercialize, mass produce, and deploy the technology and its associated operating procedures.



  1. NAVSEA Technical Bulletin, Industrial Ship Safety Manual for Fire Prevention & Response
  2. NAVSEA Campaign Plan to Expand the Advantage 3.0
  3. Major Fires Review, Executive Summary, Commander U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, July 15 2021\
  4. United States Government Accountability Office, Report to Congressional Requestors, NAVY SHIP FIRES: Ongoing Efforts to Improve Safety Should be Enhanced, April 2023.


KEYWORDS: Damage control; shipboard firefighting; flood mitigation; wearable monitoring device; personnel protection equipment; wireless shipboard communications


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