DHS Teams Up With Canadian Counterpart to Test First Responder Tech

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Among the first technologies to be tested is an application that uses artificial intelligence to help paramedics make better decisions when treating patients.

The Homeland Security Department is joining forces with Canada’s national security research office to test a variety of innovative tools that could make firefighters, paramedics and other first responders more effective in the line of duty.

On Friday, Homeland Security and the Defence Research and Development Canada Centre for Security Science kicked off a two-year partnership aimed at harnessing emerging technologies to bolster both nations’ emergency response efforts. Through the initiative, the countries will develop and test new tools to increase first responders’ safety, speed and awareness in crisis situations, while also hosting joint workshops and sharing best practices.

“Canadian and American responders have very similar requirements,” said John Merrill, director of the Next Generation First Responder Apex Program in the DHS science and technology office, in a statement. “By jointly determining research and development priorities between the two countries, we can reach our goal faster and more efficiently, eliminating duplication of effort and optimizing funding.”

Among the first technologies to be tested is an application that uses artificial intelligence to help paramedics make better decisions when treating patients.

The Assistant for Understanding Data through Reasoning, Extraction and Synthesis, or AUDREY system, crunches streams of incoming data in real time to keep responders up to speed in rapidly changing environments. While typical AI tools have trouble learning on the fly, AUDREY can quickly adapt to new situations and use “human-like reasoning” to find the signal in the noise in unstandardized and sometimes inconsistent information.

The tool connects to internet-of-things devices and sensors on responders’ equipment and provides information on an as-needed basis instead of overwhelming responders with a constant flood of data.

“Paramedics make hundreds of critical decisions about how to assess, treat and transport patients,” said Gerry Doucette, the portfolio manager for policing and law enforcement at DRDC CSS. “With AUDREY, we want to see how artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics can enhance that decision-making and help improve patient outcomes.”

Researchers will begin experimenting with the tool in Ontario, Canada, in early 2019.

Beyond AUDREY, the partnership will also test innovative vital signs sensors, indoor personnel tracking devices, virtual reality training tools and other budding emergency response technologies, Merrill told Nextgov.

The joint effort comes as part of DHS S&T’s broader push to equip first responders with a 21st-century toolkit. The agency is currently refining its blueprint for outfitting responders with wearable tech tools and preparing for a massive test of emergency response tech this December in Harris County, Texas.