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DHS S&T awards developmental funding for language translation capability for Coast Guard missions

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) awarded $192,520 in Phase 1 funding to Kynamics of Mountain View, California, to build a portable, standalone system for language translation capabilities under SVIP’s Language Translator solicitation.

In support of Coast Guard missions, the Language Translator solicitation seeks capabilities that facilitate communication in real time with non-English speakers and those who are unable to communicate verbally. The solicitation also requires the devices be able to operate in both connected and offline capacities. Coast Guard operators must be able to effectively communicate with vessel occupants – many who are non-English speakers – when performing a variety of rescue and investigation missions. Accurate and swift translation of information is critical to the safety and security of Coast Guard boarding teams and vessel occupants. Offline capability is necessary because many Coast Guard interactions take place on the high seas in extreme environmental conditions and in locations without cell service or internet connections.

The Kynamics project proposes enhancing their TalkBox product, a multilingual translator. TalkBox is built using an embedded hardware board augmented with high battery efficiency. The software is designed to operate in an offline-first manner. This Phase 1 funding will enable Kynamics to develop a language detection model that operates offline, automatically detects the spoken language, and automatically updates for fixes and feedback when internet connection is available.

“DHS S&T and SVIP have given the Coast Guard an opportunity to connect with innovative small businesses, such as Kynamics, to develop language translation technology that may enhance operational mission execution,” said Wendy Chaves, chief of the Coast Guard Research, Development, Test & Evaluation and Innovation Program. 

“We’re excited to see how the Kynamics project unfolds as we move through this first proof-of-concept phase with USCG,” said Melissa Oh, SVIP managing director. “We’re also delighted to include a minority female-founded company in our portfolio.”

The Language Translator solicitation is open through 12 p.m. PT Feb. 20, 2021. Applications will be accepted on a continuous, rolling basis, and SVIP will evaluate applications three times on a quarterly basis. The next application deadlines are Oct. 20, 2020, and Feb. 20, 2021.

For more information on current and future SVIP solicitations, visit https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/svip or contact dhs-silicon-valley@hq.dhs.gov.

SVIP is one of the tools S&T uses to fund private sector innovation and engage with commercial partners to advance homeland security solutions. Companies participating in SVIP are eligible for up to $800,000 of non-dilutive funding over four phases to develop and adapt commercial technologies for homeland security use cases. For more information, visit https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/business-opportunities.

For information on Coast Guard R&D: Research, Development, Test and Evaluation program page and Innovation program page.