EMERGE: New Dallas Accelerator Focuses On Tech For First Responders | KERA News

EMERGE: New Dallas Accelerator Focuses On Tech For First Responders

Jun 10, 2015

Technology is transforming the work of first responders. That’s the focus of a new startup accelerator program that’s a collaboration of the local Tech Wildcatters, the federal Department of Homeland Security and the Center for Innovative Technology.

 

Say there’s a fire in a big apartment complex. First responders rush in looking for survivors and trouble spots.

Now, at the front of the building is an incident commander trying to make sure those first responders are safe.

“We don’t have maps that show where firefighters are inside buildings,” says Paul Siebert. Seibert is a firefighter who works with Texas A&M’s TEEX first responder training program.

“Today all we’re hearing is voice reports,” he says. “We’d like to see that on a map so the firefighters really would be able to take their mind off of reporting back in.”

Automated location tracking is just one technological upgrade Siebert wants to see. There are also sensors available that could send information on a firefighter’s body temperature, or CO2 levels in the air. The thing is, when these sensors exist, they’re not connected. Keeping track of all the data for all the firefighters is a nightmare.

A Dashboard For First Responders

Rafik Bryant, 32, Thomas Jung, 27 and Thomas Hobhohm, 14 want to make a sort of Salesforce for first responders.

These guys met over the weekend at the “Hack for the Homeland” hackathon put on by Tech Wildcatters. And in two days, they’ve already impressed firefighters and paramedics with their idea.

 

Rafik Bryant, Thomas Jung, Gabriela Draney and Thomas Hobohm at the “Hack for the Homeland” hackathon in Dallas.
Credit Lauren Silverman / KERA News

“It’s a way to take all the sensors that firefighters have on their bodies at all times,” Hobhohm says, “to store all that information in a central dashboard that firefighting commanders can look at to tell the status of all their firefighters.”

The group won a spot in the new EMERGE accelerator. It’s a collaboration among the Department of Homeland Security, the Center for Innovative Technology and Dallas-based Tech Wildcatters. CEO Gabriella Draney says the idea is for DHS to tap into the private investor community, specifically accelerators, to help create wearables that can not only count calories, but also save lives.

Six teams will be on this twelve week journey.

“This is really pulling together not just hardware but also software and first responders who are really not very connected to technology,” Draney says. “[First responders are] walking around with technology that’s 50 years old.”

One reason first responders can be slow to adopt new technology is because they have to make sure it really works. A new pair of 3d goggles might need to be tested and tweaked out in the field for months, even years.

Draney hopes that this collaboration among entrepreneurs, hackers and first responders can speed up the time to market for new, potentially lifesaving technology.