Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

DHS turns to IoT to manage Active Shooter events

William Payne
December 24, 2019

US authorities led by the Department of Homeland Security are hoping to use IoT and Smart City technologies to help them combat "active shooter" events, where a perpetrator randomly kills members of the public, typically with guns. Active shooters are usually unpredictable events, who typically attack locations that are soft targets in urban built up zones, such as shopping malls or congested central city streets and concourses. 

Combating active shooters depends on the earliest possible warning to police and other first responders, and accurate intelligence as to the active shooter's location and movements.

In an exercise to test how urban sensors, networks and other Smart City technologies could help emergency services in an active shooter event, more than 70 first responders gathered at Eagle Bank Arena in Virginia to test a collaboration system for real-time video sharing, advanced building sensors, and other state-of-the-art technologies, in an effort to help the nation better prepare for active shooter scenarios, and other man-made and natural disasters.

Led by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) Smart City IoT Innovation (SCITI) Labs in Virginia, and using technology from Mutualink, a provider of interoperability solutions for first responders, a successful live operational field exercise demonstrated faster and more effective emergency response in a large-scale incident.

The exercise was part of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funded ‘Smart City Initiative'. The initiative involves a multiphase competitive delivery process among private sector technology companies tasked with designing, developing, and demonstrating a combination of capabilities with the goal to help meet evolving homeland security needs, including improved emergency response and communication. 

Using its multimedia interoperability platform, Mutualink’s Internet of Public Safety Things (IoPST) network and technologies, deployed throughout the arena, were used in the active shooter exercise on George Mason University Campus. 

Sensors and cameras connected to the IoPST network provided situational awareness and were securely shared in real time with mutual aid partners, enabling seamless voice communications and real-time display of video and sensor visualisation data within an interactive floorplan-map based interface. CIT’s SCITI Labs led the group that also included other advanced technology providers, whose sensors and displays were interconnected with Mutualink’s backbone network and system.

George Mason University executive leadership, research professors and students, along with numerous federal, state and local community leaders, also observed the exercise.

“Smart communities are an important next step building on top of our universal broadband access because they enable better local government services to everyone in the Commonwealth,” said Virginia Secretary of Commerce & Trade Brian Ball. “The SCITI Labs research, using smart buildings to improve public safety, is a key example of how this can work. The program is a showcase for the power of collaboration among federal, state and local government, and our university and industry partners.”

The technologies involved in the training at George Mason University also included sensors and displays that are designed to improve the operational and energy efficiency of the arena. 

It is hoped that sharing of this real-time data in an emergency can help responders more rapidly determine the location of personnel, the type and severity of the emergency, monitor on-scene environmental health and safety conditions, assist in finding victims more quickly and, ultimately, save lives. 

The solution uses in-building smart systems and sensors and delivers information to first responders in an environment where agency partners can not only see critical information but simultaneously communicate and collaborate to maximise response coordination and enhance overall first responder safety.

“Smart building technologies that interface to our advanced communications and interoperability platform benefit from real-world exercise scenarios,” said Dr. Mike Wengrovitz, Mutualink’s VP of innovation. “We thank DHS, CIT SCITI Labs, the researchers and many others with whom we’ve worked closely at George Mason University and the Eagle Bank Arena for the exercise’s tremendous success. And going forward, we’re excited about the various Smart Campus and Smart Corridor initiatives being discussed as potential elements of the follow-on program, as well as the continued collaboration with GMU including the Center for Advancing Human-Machine Partnership (CAHMP).”

Bill Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology in the Department of Homeland Security announced the new four-year contract awarded to CIT and SCITI Labs to continue this collaboration and work.

“This effort is a great example of collaboration between Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology and the commercial innovation community,” Bryan said. “The SCITI Labs ‘Commercial First Innovation’ approach rapidly brings the power of new industry partners to some of the most challenging problems of the Department of Homeland Security enterprise.”