Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) has received 175 applications seeking a portion of $30 million in federal funds to pay for research that is expected to accelerate innovation in six key technology areas, including mission-critical voice, public-safety analytics and resilient systems.

“It’s pretty exciting,” PSCR Division Chief Dereck Orr said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We were very, very happy [with the number of proposals]. We definitely hit the high end of our estimates.

“So far, it’s a big success. We’re looking forward to going through them and seeing what’s there, and then hopefully picking out some really strong submissions.”

Applications were due on Tuesday. Orr said that PSCR personnel will spend the next several weeks reviewing and evaluating the applications in hopes of selecting awardees in time for them to present their project ideas during PSCR’s annual stakeholder meeting, which will be conducted June 12-14 in San Antonio.

Any non-federal-government entity could apply for the program awards, which will range from $10,000 to $1 million annually, according to statement from PSCR. Research initiatives are slated be funded for a two-year period, although funding can be extended to a three-year period for projects led by university PhD students.

“What this does is allow us to engage an entire academic and industry community on the outside to spin up their areas of expertise and focus their efforts on public safety’s needs,” Orr said. “The real hope is not only do we get them—in the short term—focused on public safety’s needs, but maybe we create some long-lasting expertise that outlast these funds.

“The secondary hope is that, when these funds expire in 2022, there is still an expanded scope of experts now that have created an expertise and focus around public safety’s communications efforts. That would be a really exciting thing to leave behind.”

Orr said he expects at least 15 projects will be funded, noting that the quality and cost of the projects will play a significant role in determining the final total.

Projects securing an award should “accelerate research, development, production, and testing of key broadband technologies and capabilities for first responders,” according to the official notice for the funding opportunity. Part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program, the federal funding opportunity seeks research proposals in six technology areas:

  • Mission-critical voice,
  • Location-based services,
  • Public-safety analytics,
  • Communications-demand modeling,
  • Research and prototyping platforms and
  • Resilient systems.

“All six technology areas were addressed” within the proposals submitted, Orr said.

In addition to this grant opportunity, PSCR also will fund a prize challenge associated with the development of virtual-reality technology for public safety, Orr said. That initiative is expected to be announced during the next several weeks, with awards being announced during the middle of the year.