National Institute of Standards and Technology Launches Public Contest and Seeks Innovators to Develop Haptic Technology for Improved First Responder Communication $425K Prizes


BOULDER, Colo. - The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) division is hosting the Haptic Interfaces for Public Safety Challenge, which launched March 18, 2019. The division is seeking teams of haptic providers and developers to participate in a competition aimed at improving public safety operations with awards totaling up to $425,000.00. Partnering with NIST PSCR on this Challenge are the First Responder Network Authority, FirstNet built with AT&T, MSA Safety and the West Metro Fire Protection District (Colorado).

Public safety officials, such as firefighters, law enforcement and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers, work in a variety of environments that limit their senses and ability to communicate. Haptic interfaces, which use the sense of touch to send information when sight and sound are limited, might be a method to provide essential information in these situations. The Haptic Interfaces for Public Safety Challenge contestants are tasked with investigating the relevance of haptic interfaces for assisting in first responder tasks. The challenge also seeks to assess the potential for virtual reality environments as development tools for public safety technology.

“Our grant programs and prize challenges can help us make great leaps forward in solving public safety challenges by creating collaborations with innovators, industry, academia and the public safety community,” said Dereck Orr, chief of NIST’s PSCR division. “Virtual reality allows us to test and measure new devices — such as haptic interfaces — in realistic scenarios before they are deployed and relied upon by emergency responders.”

The Haptic Interfaces for Public Safety Challenge consists of multiple phases and will require the development of three haptic prototypes integrated into PSCR-provided virtual reality scenarios as well as a final haptic prototype embedded into a firefighter’s personal protective equipment (PPE) for a search and rescue scenario at a firefighter training center.

How to Participate

Interested haptic providers and developers can visit and for more information on how to participate in the challenge. The challenge launched March 18, and applications to first enter the challenge are due April 22.

PSCR Background

Since 2002, NIST’s PSCR has worked to drive innovation and advance public safety communication technologies through cutting-edge Research and Development (R&D). PSCR works directly with first responders and the solver community to address public safety’s urgent need to access the same broadband communications and state-of-the-art technologies that consumers on commercial networks now expect.