Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

A panel of public safety experts presents to an audience at PSCR’s 2019 Public Safety Broadband Stakeholders meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

PSCR 2019 covers ‘what’s next’ for public safety tech

July 18, 2019

Every year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Public Safety Communications Research Division (PSCR) brings together stakeholders from public safety, industry, government, and academia for a conference to discuss what’s on the horizon for emergency responder technology.

From July 9 to 11, I joined a number of my First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) teammates in Chicago to participate in PSCR 2019. We engaged with stakeholders and learned about what’s next for public safety communications. The value of PSCR’s annual meeting is its diversity — there are talks on standards, deployables, data sharing, security, the Internet of Things, and more. Many innovations that touch public safety communications were either discussed or on display.

A number of PSCR’s prize challenges are currently underway, so this year’s meeting was full of demos and discussions about innovations stemming from these efforts. For example, one virtual reality (VR) project simulated a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Metro tunnel filled with smoke. The research team used sensors to simulate the edge of the platform and added radio chatter for an immersive VR training experience. Another project demoed a cognitive-driven display for firefighters that measures the brain activity of a responder to see how they react in high-stress environments. Communications are then tailored (e.g., audio vs. visual, using colors vs. numbers) based on the responder’s brain activity.

In addition to demos, PSCR held a panel to discuss Tech to Protect, its nationwide coding challenge to develop apps for first responders. FirstNet Authority Senior Advisor Bill Schrier, who is assisting in the planning of this challenge, joined the panel and encouraged public safety stakeholders to participate by guiding coders on their operational needs. The FirstNet Authority is pleased to partner with PSCR on this groundbreaking project, including helping to lead four of the ten coding challenges:

  • Tech to Protect Contest 3, led by FirstNet Authority Senior Apps UX Architect Shawn Shahidi, explores using augmented reality to map the safest way for emergency responders to extricate trapped passengers in vehicle collisions.
  • Tech to Protect Contest 6, led by FirstNet Authority Senior Device Engineer Barry Leitch, aims to provide virtual assistants to those busy protecting our communities so they can operate hands-free.
  • Tech to Protect Contest 7, led by FirstNet Authority Senior Advisor Bill Schrier, digs into how sensor networks can help monitor responder health.
  • Tech to Protect Contest 10, led by former Baltimore Assistant Fire Chief Ray Lehr, addresses tracking patient triage during a mass casualty. Organizing the chaos during a crisis is essential to getting patients the care they need.

Learn about all 10 Tech to Protect coding challenges and the 10 cities that will be hosting in-person code-a-thons this fall at

The FirstNet Authority would like to thank PSCR for another opportunity to address and engage thousands of stakeholders during its annual meeting. We look forward to our continued partnership and future collaborations.