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Homeland Security envisions devices for first responders of the future

By

October 9, 2012

The United States Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate has...

The United States Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate has attempted to anticipate the needs of first responders 20 years in the future (Photo: Shutterstock)

The United States Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has pulled out its crystal ball to look 20 years into the future. In this case, the ball is made of focus groups and the future is that of technologies available to first responders a generation from now. The idea is to anticipate the needs of first responders to make sure that the appropriate technology is available to meet future disasters and terrorist attacks.

An interesting intellectual pastime is looking back at old science fiction stories or predictions by pundits about the sort of gadgets the future would hold and seeing how well (or poorly) their vision of the 21st century tallies with reality. At the Homeland Security Studies & Analysis Institute (HSSAI) Resilience and Emergency Preparedness/Response Branch in Arlington, Virginia, S&T employs futurists to turn that idea on its head by envisioning the world of the future and attempt to foresee what technology will be required.

The results, as summed up in a report called Project Responder 3, are an interesting mix of blue-sky thinking. By 2032, police are expected to be wearing "augmented reality" eyeglasses or wrist phones that they can use to instantly pull up data on a suspect while looking at them, identify terrorists in a crowd or finding weapons. The point of this is that law enforcement will be actively linked to a homeland-security network that they can use to anticipate crimes rather than responding to those already committed.

This same access to information will allow paramedics to perform difficult diagnoses in the field as well as performing advanced procedures. Smartphones will be able to automatically send emergency calls in the event of an accident and coach samaritans on the scene in how to administer first aid until professionals arrive. Once there, paramedics will use devices similar to Star Trek’s tricorder to assess the victim’s condition and they’ll have artificial blood on hand for transfusions. If the patient needs moving, the paramedics will have powered exoskeletons to do the lifting.

Meanwhile, firefighters will have robots to deal with debris and to go into hazardous environments. They’ll also have a host of sensors, smoke-penetrating goggles and headgear that will feed them a steady stream of data, such as maps, warnings and oxygen levels in the immediate area.

Even the multi-threat protective clothing worn by responders will be high tech. It will be trim and lightweight like any good set of futuristic clothing should be, but will also have a long-lasting oxygen supply and sensors to seek out victims, tell which ones need care first and warn if it isn't possible to reach them safely. Along with the clothing will be universal translators, so language will no longer be a barrier in delivering aid.

Even cities will be geared to help in a disaster with networks of sensors to help emergency managers respond quickly and appropriately and there will be new learning software to help responders do their jobs better and adapt to the unexpected.

The purpose of all these predictions is part of an examination of how police, firefighters and paramedics will operate 20 years from now in a world that has become more interconnected. S&T wanted to know how this interconnectedness would make energy, water, food and cyberspace more vulnerable and what technologies would be available to counteract attacks against them.

The Project Responder 3 report is based on data from four focus groups convened in 2011 made up of law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and emergency managers. Their responses were ranked according to need and subjected to factor analysis, a statistical method used to detect correlations and set priorities.

S&T admits that the predictions are not perfect and that they raise legal and ethical questions about access to patient information or the liability of an artificial intelligence. And, of course, the report doesn’t even mention jetpacks once, which any good prediction of the future must have.

Source: Department of Homeland Security

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
7 Comments

Precrime... minority report.. sounds legit

Murray Smart
9th October, 2012 @ 09:56 pm PDT

What does this have to do with first response again? All of this could and would be used for many things by many people. How much privacy are you willing to give up for some little security?

MBadgero
10th October, 2012 @ 09:02 am PDT

I think that at the time of the purchase of the ticket, security information on the individual should be brought up. Advanced perusal of the individual's background would do much to alleviate TSA's pressure on people and also would permit them to concentrate on those who should be examined closely. Regretably, the TSA has not been kind to elderly, to the sick and to children in some cases. Having the past history of the individuals would permit more considerate screening measures. As part of the security process, the fingerprints of each passanger should be taken.

Adrian Akau
10th October, 2012 @ 09:23 am PDT

Most this is coming together now. We work with medical sensors integrated with smart phones sending the data where it has the most value. Qualcomm had a "X Prize" type competition for the first medical tri-corder. Indoor and outdoor maps are merging with the tech to take advantage of the maps. Virtual reality is here and is being refined.

It will be in anyone s hands who wants it.

rik.warren
10th October, 2012 @ 10:13 am PDT

asking users what they need is a sure way to misunderstand reality.

users want flying cars and jetpacks.

and clothes that are slim and light weight but carry plenty of oxygen and scanning technology. EMTs wearing cyber suits to pick up people is inefficient. you're going to have how many EMTs sitting around in their cyber suits, responding to calls where they don't need the technology.. at what expense? and how often will it be needed compared to EMTs using regular strength or slightly better ergonomic handles and slings to lift weights. This report seems to be just cops and firefighters and EMTs sitting around and shooting the bull. not understanding the reality of economics and efficiency. the cops responding to pre-crime is scary. if you can predict crime, why can't you divert it so it doesn't happen in the first place, as opposed to sending cops to clean it up? did they mention being able to put more bullets pe rminute into unarmed citizens, or their new capabilities to track emails and phone calls, or perform masked raids in the middle of the night to serve a 'search warrant'? yeah... these people need more powers.

MockingBird TheWizard
10th October, 2012 @ 01:16 pm PDT

Good to see that in the future, dusty old relics like The Constitution and Bill of Rights will have been put in museums with the other curiousities of the dark past.

Also good to see that the US Federal government will finally have discovered those artesian wells of budget money and free energy the think-tanks always prophesize about.

And its great that all the citizenry look so happy through those wearable crime-predicting smart glasses. And that the ones who don't can be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Good that there will finally be enough trustworthy, omniscient police that citizenry can finally give up their clumsy self-defense weaponry in favour of the perfectly armed and defended state who will always look after them.

I really can't wait!

sleat
10th October, 2012 @ 09:25 pm PDT

MBadgero, gotta agree, and the name Homeland is so loaded with patriotism with us or against us it is obscene.

Bill Bennett
10th October, 2012 @ 09:39 pm PDT
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