Questions about the Tech To Protect Challenge

What is the Tech to Protect Challenge?

Who is the Tech to Protect Challenge for?

Thinkers, inventors, and innovators with diverse backgrounds who share a common interest in creating technology that can improve the safety of their communities. Regardless of your skill level, we invite you to use your talents and join researchers, scientists and emergency responders in advancing technologies and applications for public safety.

Where and when will the in-person contests be held?

Tech to Protect Challenge in-person contests will be held across the U.S. in 10 different host cities throughout September and November 2019. Exact date and location details will be released in Spring 2019.

If I can’t attend an in-person contest, can I submit a solution online?

Individuals, teams and organizations can participate virtually in the Online Contest opening in June 2019. Participants who are unable to attend a local codeathon in one of the 10 host cities are encouraged to submit a prototype or solution online for consideration.

When and how can I sign up for a contest?

Registration for both in-person contests and the Online Contest will be open in April 2019, allowing participants to sign-up, build teams, review challenges and begin creating solutions.

How are the contests designed?

Tech to Protect Challenge contests are designed to motivate participants to develop solutions that address communications issues emergency responders experience when serving and protecting communities. Solutions will include creating applications and tools that will support emergency responders with voice-activated commands, more accurate mapping and data, secure communications, and user-friendly interfaces that are specific to the current needs of public safety.

What prizes are available to winners?

All Tech to Protect Challenge participants who submit a prototype or solution to one of the 10 contest areas are eligible for up to $2.2 million in cash prizes.

When will winners be announced?

All Tech to Protect Challenge winners will be announced at the National Event taking place in 2020.

Can I submit a solution to multiple Tech to Protect contests?

A Participant is eligible to submit a single submission to each contest in Regional Codeathon Burst 1, Burst 2, and the best and final for the Online Contest.

Are regional codeathon participant teams allowed to work on their submissions before the regional codeathon event?

A regional codeathon team can indeed start working on their submission before the regional codeathon event.

Can teams collaborate across locations and submit their project more than once?

Regarding collaboration across locations within the same weekend—a single team can be present at more than one regional codeathon. The team can work in collaboration and may submit their work at any regional codeathon they attend for consideration. The team must be present (in person) to be eligible for regional codeathon prizes, and the team may only submit once per contest for the codeathon weekend based on the official rules section 7.3 Teams. A team working on one contest cannot submit the same entry for the same contest at multiple regional codeathons, even if there are team members at each location. One submission per team, per contest.

Regarding duplicate submissions—a team cannot enter the exact same submission at different codeathon events or to a single contest, there must be some meaningful variation to the approach, prototype, etc. based on the official rules section 7.3 Teams.

Local In-Person Events

What is a coding contest?

Coding contests, also known as codeathons or hackathons, are events focused on bringing together a diverse range of people, over the course of anywhere from 8 to 48 hours, to create solutions to problems using data, technology, and creativity. Participants, in teams of 5 or less people, come up with ideas and use their skills to create technology tools or concepts that they present to the group as part of the codeathon competition.

Who owns my project?

Any applicable intellectual property rights to a submission will remain with the contestant. By participating in the prize challenge, the contestant is not granting any rights in any patents, pending patent applications, or copyrights related to the technology described in the submission. However, by submitting a contest submission, the contestant is granting the Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology as noted in the rules.

Is there an agenda or timeline for the event?

Visit the Eventbrite page for your local event for more information.


How do I submit my solution?

All solutions for the Tech to Protect Challenge must be submitted on For coding contests, contestants must be registered for their local event in order to be eligible for judging and awards.

How can I contact the National Organizing Team?

You may contact the National Organizing Team at [email protected].

Online Contests/National Events

How do I participate in the online contest?

Participate in the Online Contest by developing a prototype or solution that addresses one of the challenge’s 10 unique contests. Every participant who submits an application towards the Online Contest will be evaluated and eligible for the national prize. All completed application materials will need to be submitted before the Online Contest deadline through Online submissions will require participants to provide a 3 minute narrated powerpoint file or a 3 minute video describing the submission, general information about themselves, as well as some specific deliverables depending on the contest they are responding to – all participant materials will be managed through the challenge website by November 15, 2019.

Contest 1 – 360 Degree View: A Mobile Dashboard for Your Network Security

Who would use this app?

This application will be utilized by all emergency responders with a smartphone. Our first responders must have confidence in the communication channels required to relay the sensitive information to the organizational units needed to perform these lifesaving duties.  

Does my application need to be 508 compliant?

No, 508 compliance is not needed at this point in this applications lifecycle. 508 compliance is very important functionality, but we would like to focus on design and functionality.

What if I am unable to retrieve security posture data on a particular communication channel?

If you are unable to provide a particular dataset, spoofing data can be utilized in order to present your application. Remember that you are being scored on UI/UX design and not just functionality of retrieving security posture data.

Contest 2 – No Need to Repeat: Delivering Mission Critical Communications

What is Mission Critical Push-to-Talk or MCPTT?

From 3GPP Technical Specification 22.179: “A Push To Talk service provides an arbitrated method by which two or more users may engage in communication. Users may request permission to transmit (e.g., traditionally by means of a press of a button). The Mission Critical Push To Talk over LTE (MCPTT) service supports an enhanced PTT service, suitable for mission critical scenarios, based upon 3GPP Evolved Packet System (EPS) services.” Some of the enhancements that make MCPTT suitable for mission critical scenarios are: Quality of Service (QoS) Class Identifiers (QCIs) that ensure a higher QoS for the MCPTT service, media encryption, Priority – Preemption – Quality of Service (QPP), network-supported authentication and authorization, service continuity features such as off-network communication capabilities or UE-to-network relay, location during emergency or imminent peril communication, and many more. MCPTT is a Push-To-Talk application specifically made for emergency responders such as police officers, firefighters, and EMTs.

Aren’t there PTT apps already available?

Yes, there are many excellent Push-to-Talk apps and solutions already available. In fact, many are being used by emergency responders right now. Some of these products are highly capable and provide advanced proprietary features and added security. However, these are proprietary applications, and interoperability can be an issue if not everyone is using the same product. Also, the network may not provide a higher level of QoS or provide QPP for these applications. There may be some newly developed apps that can support some level of MCPPT. But at the moment, MCOP provides the only fully-functional 3GPP Release 13 AND 14 MCPTT SDK.

Where can I find the standards and references for MCPTT?

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project, or 3GPP, standardized MCPTT and other Mission Critical Services (MCS). A general information page, which lists the specific standards documents and references, can be found here: The two main specifications for MCPTT are 3GPP TS 24.379 and 3GPP TS 24.380. For this challenge, the specifications referenced should be for 3GPP Release 14.

What is the Mission Critical Open Platform or MCOP?

From the MCOP website ( “The Mission Critical Open Platform (MCOP) is a collaborative project with the financial assistance award 70NANB17H151 from U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology through the Public Safety Innovation Acceleration Program (PSIAP). MCOP aims at facing the challenges of the new MCPTT complex ecosystem through the definition, development and validation of a MCPTT UE Open Platform (MCOP) that identifies neat interfaces between the different technologies in the UEs, reduces the integration efforts and removes the entry barriers.”

Contest 3 – Looking Under the Hood: Using Augmented Reality to Help Save Trapped Passengers

Why is this app needed and who would use it?

Significant and constant changes in vehicle design, construction and materials in recent years, and new hybrid and electric vehicle technologies becoming more mainstream have made extrication and rescue of victims much more challenging. New technology in vehicles can cause undue hazards to emergency responders, for example if they accidentally discharge airbags or are unaware of additional hazards (electric car batteries, high-pressure struts, etc.). Modern user interface technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) can instantly provide emergency responders with the information they need during the extrication process, potentially saving lives by reducing the time it takes to rescue victims and prevent emergency responder injuries during extrication and rescue operations.

What are the benefits of using AR in developing this app?

Emergency responders can benefit from key benefits of AR which include increased engagement and perceptually enriched user experiences. Instead of relying on static images and diagrams or textual descriptions for where to make the extrication entry cuts, the new app leverages AR to create a dynamic, configurable and easy to navigate interface for emergency responders to navigate through the vehicle information quickly and make all the right decisions during the process.

What AR SDKs can I use for the development of the app?

You can use any paid or free augmented reality SDK of your choice for iOS and Android development.

How does the app know the year, make and model of the vehicle?

The vehicle info can be entered manually, read via a License Plate Reader and queried from DMV records or decoded from VIN. It’s up to you to choose the method. Please note that vehicle type identification is not one of the objectives of this challenge; it’s rather how accurately and efficiently the app overlays the vehicle extrication info on top of the image to emergency responders.

Do I need to demo the app on a real vehicle?

Eventually yes. But for initial and periodic submissions to receive early feedback, you have the option of sending us recorded videos demoing your app on an actual vehicle or on a saved image instead of the live picture of the car.

Contest 4 – Got You Covered: Mapping LTE Coverage to Save Lives

Who would use this app?

The idea is that emergency responders would use the application. Just as buildings get inspected for fire code violations, easy and quick evaluations of LTE coverage can be made by the same kind of people. This way emergency responder groups can be better prepared when responding to in-building incidents.

Do I need to build an app that covers every Mode?

Yes, your application needs to work for every mode type. As emergency responders map a building, it is critical that the solution works regardless of whether or not they have building information.

What is RSRP?

RSRP stands for Reference Signal Received Power, and it is a common metric used to understand the signal strength of an LTE connection. Think of this as the way you get bars on your phone. The common range of RSRP is -60 to -110, where -60 represents a good connection to a cell tower, or “Full Bars,” and -110 represents a poor connection to a tower, or 1 bar. (This is not completely true, but it is close enough). To get more technical, RSRP is the average measurement of all the reference subcarriers’ power. It is dependent on the bandwidth of the channel and the path loss to the user.

Innovative location mapping elements? Why can’t I use GPS and be done with it?

Although GPS is wonderful outdoors, it fails quite easily indoors. Since the point of the application is to build coverage maps indoors, it becomes problematic for a phone to figure out where it is in a building while making its measurements.

So how do I tell a phone where it is in a building?

That’s up to you, and it is a part of the challenge! There are multiple techniques out there for finding location in a building, and the topic is a fairly new and growing research field. Some techniques include inertial measurement methods, general beaconing, and peer-to-peer methods. You can choose one or multiple for your solution.

Contest 5 – Fire Safety in 3D: Incentivizing Homeowners to Create Pre-incident Plans for Firefighters

Am I required to use the VizHome dataset? If so, where do I find it?

Participants are required to use either the VizHome dataset, or other scans provided by PSCR. The VizHome dataset may be found here. Data from PSCR, if made available, will be here

There are twenty different homes in the VizHome dataset, which one do I use?

You choose! And you can use as many as you like. Each one has segmentation data, as well, that could be valuable for your development.

The VizHome data files are huge – 2 GB each! How am I supposed to use those? And it isn’t practical for homeowners!

The original data was collected using a high-resolution static LiDAR scanner that is accurate on the order of millimeters. While participants are welcome to use these full point-clouds, we might recommend using the simplified (i.e. down-sampled) point-clouds, which are still very accurate (centimeters) but are 1/100th the size. We also understand that homeowners will not have access to that kind of equipment or data, but that’s not the point of this challenge – we just want to explore the possibilities.

Why are you going to give us different data for Criteria 4-5?

We want to make sure that the solutions you’ve created aren’t designed or doctored only to work with the original dataset. However, the data we provide will be similar in nature and format to the original data.

I already have an app that uses a 3D camera to collect scans – can’t I just use data I collect from that?

That’s great, and you probably have a head start! But, in order to level the playing field and really focus on the more innovative, value-added transformations of the data, we are not accepting submissions that use data collected outside of the challenge.

In the contest rules, under the resources section, there is a statement that ‘Participants may choose to augment these scans with synthetic data that would be available from sensors in typical mobile devices to help demonstrate their particular application.’ What does that mean?

Even though the data we’re providing for the contest was not taken using a mobile device, e.g. a smart phone, the idea is that homeowners would, in fact, use a 3D-enabled smartphone to collect this type of data in the future. Since smartphones have a lot of other sensors in them, we would like to see how they could be incorporated into the prototype solutions. For example, you could use the embedded light sensor to help homeowners understand how well or poorly lit certain areas of their house are with a 3D perspective.

Which tool should I use for the prototype web or mobile app?

Your choice! The only requirement is that reviewers and judges will be able to interact with and evaluate the prototype via a shared web link. Commonly used tools include InVision, FluidUI, and

What should be in the fire-safety checklist and pre-incident plan?

As stated in the contest rules, there’s lots of information about both of these subjects on the Internet. We have some ideas, of course, but we don’t want to bias participants towards one item or the other. Better yet, we really encourage participants to go out and meet with their local fire departments to get their opinions.

I can think of some really cool outputs for law enforcement – can I submit those?

We recognize this concept has some really good applications for law enforcement. But, to keep things simple we’re just focusing on the firefighting use case for this challenge.

Contest 6 – Voice Commands to Virtual Assistants: Hands Free Device Control

Does this challenge focus on certain areas of virtual assistant and voice control technology or is there a level of flexibility for research topics?

All areas of technology development for hands free control are viable candidates to be included in this challenge. The primary goal for this challenge is to kick start industry into thinking about the special needs of public safety users to enable customized voice control and virtual assistant technologies to directly benefit public safety operations. Challenge participants have the flexibility to focus in any area that they are interested in contributing to advances in hands free user interface technology. Some may want to focus in one public safety discipline while others may focus on areas which would benefit all disciplines.       


Is it possible to use commercial virtual assistant platforms for this challenge or is a custom solution expected?

Any of the commercial virtual assistant platforms such as Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, Bixby or others can be leveraged with or without custom solutions as part of this challenge. Many voice command solutions already use a combination of commercial platforms to leverage the unique capabilities which each provide. Challenge participants could use these commercial platforms while focusing their development in other areas such as enabling specialized data access, addressing cybersecurity issues with voice access to sensitive data or developing techniques to be able to use voice commands in challenging operational environments.      

Can a participant utilize their own data sets to develop and demonstrate their solution?

Yes, a participant can utilize their own data set to demonstrate their virtual assistant solution if they choose to do so. A sample set of base data is expected to be made available to all participants to utilize within the challenge. Participants are free to use their own data sets if they want to expand the content or to provide innovative solutions which are not possible with the standard set of the provided data.

What type of devices or equipment can be used as part of the challenge?

The participants are encouraged to use whatever devices or equipment they feel will provide the best virtual assistant solution customized for public safety use. Smartphones, tablets or a mobile data terminals are the main devices which are expected to be used as part of the development and demonstration efforts for the challenge. Other supplementary equipment such as smart speakers, smart displays, in-vehicle custom devices and headsets are additional items which could support additional capabilities providing more creative and capable solutions.   

Contest 7 – Sensor Integration: Monitoring Emergency Responder’s Health

What kinds of sensors do emergency responders use?

We suggest you contact your local fire or police department and discuss this. In most cases, you can ask for a ride-along to see how emergency responders do their job and then interact with them. Some ideas are: physiological monitoring sensors – heart rate, body temperature, even EKG, hazardous gas sensors which measure the presence of carbon monoxide, ammonia or other harmful gases in the air, and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) sensors which show the amount of air left in the oxygen tank worn by a firefighter.

Where can we obtain sensors to use in coding a dashboard?

One idea is to talk to firefighters or police officers and see what devices (if any) they are using, then contact the manufacturers of those devices to obtain information. But you can also look for commercially available devices such as smartwatches, thermal imaging cameras and even vehicle monitoring devices like OBD2 monitors.

We can display the output of a smartwatch sensor on a dashboard on a tablet computer. What else can we do to enhance the dashboard application to be more competitive?

Here are several ideas: (1) Display the results of several sensors of the same type on the dashboard. This simulates multiple emergency responders at the scene of an incident; (2) Modify your dashboard to allow the user to configure alert levels. For example, set an alert level of 140 heartbeats per minute to trigger an alert of a flashing icon or sound; (3) Add additional sensors or information to the dashboard, such as the location of the responder using GPS from the responder’s smartphone, or information from a hazardous gas sensor alongside a heart monitor.

Contest 8 – No Coverage: Placing Deployable Networks in Emergencies

What on earth is a deployable system?

Deployable system is a generic term for a communication system that provides broadband connectivity and services. Try to think of it as a portable computer that gives your phone LTE connectivity. Deployable systems have been around for a while mainly for Military and Special remote purposes, but new technologies are allowing these systems to come into common use.

Why have I never seen one of these things before?

Deployable system is a new concept for public safety. In the past, voice communications with land mobile radio were the extent of the technology emergency responders used. Now that broadband is becoming ubiquitous throughout the united states, public safety now needs broadband everywhere. One way to ensure this is through a deployable system. Although you don’t see them today, you will most likely see them very soon in the United States.

Does a deployable system let me go to the internet?

Not always, a deployable system is built to be a standalone system so it does not need to use a connection to the internet. Users connected to the system can talk to other users on the same system as well as use various application inside their isolated “bubble”. Although a connection to the internet is always a good idea, it may not always be available to a public safety group so it’s important to be able to go it alone.

What is RSRP?

RSRP stands for Reference Signal Received Power and it is a common metric used to understand the signal strength of an LTE connection. Think of this as the way you get bars on your phone. The common range of RSRP is -60 to -110, where -60 represents a good connection to a cell tower or Full Bars, and -110 represents a poor connection to a tower or 1 bar (Not completely true, but close enough to think about). To get more technical, RSRP is the average measurement of all the reference subcarriers powers. Its dependent on the bandwidth of the channel and the path loss to the user.

What information will be given to me about a deployable system?

To come up with a prediction model of coverage of a setup, we will provide the following:

  • Radiated Frequency
  • RF Output power from the equipment
  • The loss in the cables
  • The antenna Height
  • The antenna Gain
  • The Latitude, Longitude, altitude of the deployable system

What is this service conversion table and where did it come from?

The service conversion table is meant to simplify the complexities of a cellular network. Emergency responders want to know what services and capabilities they have around a deployable system, not what the RSRP value is. The point is to convey complex information easily. The table was created by PSCR given in house testing. We used our own deployable systems, and changed the RSRP value until voice, video, and text became unusable.

What is the Wild Card feature?

It’s anything that you think adds value to the application you are building. Try to put yourself in the shoes of an emergency responder and what they may want out of an application like this. It may not even have to work but it should be at least possible. We are looking for innovators and creative ideas in this challenge.

Can you limit the final location to a particular country and state?

Yes, you can limit the final location to the US or to a particular state such as Colorado.

Participants should consider the following:

  • Most agencies would likely have the whole US as fire teams and can get deployed to many states away to fight massive fires.
  • One of the grading criteria is features (worth 20 points) and having the whole US would be a better feature to the Judges and Reviewers than just the state of Colorado.
  • US map database NIST has uses the Open Layers map system ( This NIST database has tiles for zoom levels from 0 – 16 for the entire US. This is good in terms of a balance between detailed maps and storage cost. Google goes down to zoom level 21 which is a lot of files. In order to limit the storage you can either limit the zoom or limit the overall area on the planet. For this Contest you can look at the whole US, but with a max zoom of about 16.

Can my code reach out to Google Earth or equivalent for map data online when the coordinates are provided?

Criteria #0 Basic Requirements of Contest 8 state that the solution cannot rely on any cloud services and must be local at all times. In order to simulate a real deployment, you cannot use Google Earth or any other cloud service.

Contest 9 – Making the Case: Proactive Image Protection

Will the PIP solution only be used by public safety?

Other organizations have similar needs around image provenance and integrity. Examples include professional photographers who need to protect copyrighted photographs and photographs for insurance claims. Public safety would benefit from witnesses using the app to photographing an event in progress.

How will the verification tool be used?

Emergency responders have systems in place to handle and track evidence. The courts are a major audience for the verification tool. The prosecution and defense will receive PIP images and want to perform their own verification. The computer platforms available to them could be anything. The verification tool would let detectives check photographs that appear in the media, allegedly depicting cases. An important question is whether the photograph was altered to change what happened.

Who would benefit from this work?

Law enforcement officers conducting covert surveillance would benefit from a PIP solution. The secret nature of their operations means they would benefit from having tool to help them establish the date and location of events depicted.

What is a Mass Casualty Incident?

A mass casualty incident (often shortened to MCI and sometimes called a multiple-casualty incident or multiple-casualty situation) is any incident in which emergency medical services resources, such as personnel and equipment, are overwhelmed by the number and severity of casualties. For example, an incident where a two-person crew is responding to a motor vehicle collision with three severely injured people could be considered a mass casualty incident. The general public more commonly recognizes events such as building collapses, train and bus collisions, plane crashes, earthquakes and other large-scale emergencies as mass casualty incidents. Events such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the September 11 attacks in 2001 are well-publicized examples of mass casualty incidents. The most common types of MCIs are generally caused by terrorism, mass-transportation accidents, or natural disasters.

Contest 10 – Organizing Chaos: Calming Catastrophe by Tracking Patient Triage

What is Medical Triage?

The process of sorting people based on their need for immediate medical treatment as compared to their chance of benefiting from such care. Triage is done in emergency rooms, disasters, mass casualty incidents (e.g., multi-vehicle accident), and wars when limited medical resources must be allocated to maximize the number of survivors.

What is a Mass Casualty Incident?

A mass casualty incident (often shortened to MCI and sometimes called a multiple-casualty incident or multiple-casualty situation) is any incident in which emergency medical services resources, such as personnel and equipment, are overwhelmed by the number and severity of casualties. For example, an incident where a two-person crew is responding to a motor vehicle collision with three severely injured people could be considered a mass casualty incident. The general public more commonly recognizes events such as building collapses, train and bus collisions, plane crashes, earthquakes and other large-scale emergencies as mass casualty incidents. Events such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the September 11 attacks in 2001 are well-publicized examples of mass casualty incidents. The most common types of MCIs are generally caused by terrorism, mass-transportation accidents, or natural disasters.

What is EMS?

EMS is the acronym for emergency medical services. This term refers to the treatment and transport of people in crisis health situations that may be life threatening. Emergency medical support is applied in a wide variety of situations from car accidents to drownings to incidents of

heart attack. EMS units work out of ambulances, fire departments, and hospitals. Oftentimes emergency medical services are in place where the risk of an accident or health crises is high, such as ski areas, professional sports events, and dangerous job sites like offshore oil rigs.

What is ePCR?

Stands for electronic patient care reporting.  When ePCRs first came out, they were essentially electronic versions of old paper forms used by EMS agencies, ambulance services, and fire departments. And many of them stayed that way for years. Others have come and gone, as state and federal reporting requirements have become more complex.

What is GPS?

Stands for Global Positioning System. GPS is a satellite navigation system used to determine the ground position of an object. GPS technology was first used by the United States military in the 1960s and expanded into civilian use over the next few decades.

For more information contact [email protected]