Improving Emergency Communications

The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is working in conjunction with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to improve the possibilities of “Internet of Things (IoT) to produce and enhance emergency communications for first responders.

Often, first responders when facing dangerous situations are only able to communicate with their command centers that are capable of warning first responders of looming dangers. Today, the influx of IoT devices will enable first responders to have access to a vast, timely, and smart network of connections to the outside world.

DHS S&T is testing the “Wearable Alert and Monitoring System (WAMS), a multicomponent communications system to not just ensure effective emergency response, but to also enhance first responders’ performance and provide more safety.

WAMS, basically a smart sensor, monitors and tracks the wearer and the environment. WAMS can also record and report on vital metrics such as oxygen levels, presence of carbon monoxide, abnormal heart rhythms, elevated body temperatures, and increased respiratory rates.

WAMS works with JPL’s “Assistant for Understanding Data through Reasoning, Extraction, & Synthesis” (AUDREY) system which uses human-like artificial intelligence to understand the needs of first responders and incident managers

AUDREY will connect with sensors on the first responder’s personal protective equipment and with information provided by the IoT, will intelligently consider the situation for each first responder and then extract key information needed at that exact time.

In anticipation of incidents that cross multiple jurisdictions, DHS (S&T) is designing WAMS to be interoperable between different agencies, compatible with IT infrastructure common to most offices, and also capable of using the FirstNet network. Going forward, DHS (S&T) and NASA JPL will continue to test WAMS to ensure that its functionalities can work under actual field conditions and be useful to first responders.

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