Homeland Security taps two accelerators to push wearables for first responders

By Jonah Comstock
09:11 am
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Google GlassDallas-based accelerator Tech Wildcatters and Chicago-based accelerator TechNexus have announced that they are accepting applications for a new incubator program, called Emerge. The program, which will include 10 to 15 companies across the two accelerators, will accept companies that are working on wearable technology that can help first responders.

The two accelerators were tapped by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the nonprofit Center for Innovative Technology (CIT). In a press release, DHS explained what kind of technology is being sought:

"The accelerator program, called Emerge! Accelerator program, is aimed at entrepreneurs who have innovative ideas that address the unique needs of the Homeland Security community and whose wearable technology could be adapted for first responder operations," they write. "This includes wearable technologies, such as body-worn electronics, advanced sensors, and integrated voice and data communications embedded in a responder’s gear."

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CIT explained in a FAQ that because of the conditions first responders, particularly firefighters, encounter, wearables designed for everyday use might not be robust enough for their use. Also, different kinds of first responders have particular communication and resource needs wearables could address.

As with other Tech Wildcatters classes, companies will receive $25,000: $15,000 at the start and $10,000 more upon graduation. In return, Tech Wildcatters will take 8 percent equity.

Tech Wildcatters' accelerator will partner with Wearable World, a San Francisco media and technology company, to provide mentors for the class and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, which trains first responders, will help them test the technologies. Companies in both accelerators will go through 12-week programs culminating in a demo day in September.

DHS and CIT are investing in the hopes of encouraging innovation that will lead to products the government can use, but the program doesn't guarantee that government will purchase technology developed in the accelerator.

"DHS is committed to using cutting-edge technologies and scientific talent in its quest to make America safer," the frequently asked questions document for the project says. "However, there is no provision for the government to buy product as part of this pilot accelerator program. Furthermore, it is likely that products coming out of this effort will still require some additional product development and certainly extensive testing and validation before they are potentially ready for fielding. DHS Science and Technology is actively exploring ways to foster innovation and hasten transition, and the accelerator pilot program has high visibility, so we believe companies will have opportunities to demonstrate their innovative products to a number of key leaders."

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