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DHS S&T funds development of tracking buoy, language translation capabilities for USCG missions

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) has awarded Phase 1 development funding for two technologies that could bolster Coast Guard mission execution.

Kenautics, Inc., of Encinitas, California, was awarded $157,801 to provide a more reliable system for marking objects in water under SVIP’s Maritime Object Tracking Technology (MOTT) solicitation. TranslateLive, LLC, of Clearwater, Florida, was awarded $185,665 to adapt its Instant Language Assistant (ILA) capabilities under SVIP’s Language Translator solicitation.

The MOTT solicitation supports Coast Guard missions by seeking more reliable tracking systems for accurately marking and monitoring objects in the water for recovery. The MOTT is intended to be used during operational missions to boost waterway security, drug interdiction, search and rescue, and disaster response.

Kenautics proposes to adapt their handheld Diver Navigation and Imaging System – meant for waypoint navigation; subsea imaging; situational awareness; and information, surveillance, and reconnaissance – by repackaging the system into a ruggedized buoy deployable from land, air and sea under adverse conditions. The Kenautics GPS-AIS Navigation and Tracking Buoy will be usable in both overt and covert operations and will be designed to provide tracking and position data, geo-referenced forensic data sets, localization capabilities and interactive functions.

“Working together with DHS S&T and SVIP allows the Coast Guard to pursue innovative solutions through start-ups and small companies that are developing advanced technology, and we are looking forward to Kenautics’ Phase 1 effort,” said Wendy Chaves, chief of Coast Guard Research, Development, Test & Evaluation and Innovation. 

The Coast Guard partnership with SVIP was initiated when the service sought ways to expand on its own endeavors with tracking objects in the maritime environment. “With experience designing for Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal, special operators and first responders, we are optimistic that this project with Kenautics will enhance the USCG’s ability to carry out their missions,” said Melissa Oh, SVIP managing director.

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 devices to be able to operate in both connected and offline capacities. While performing a variety of rescue and investigation missions, Coast Guard operators must be able to communicate with vessel occupants – many who are non-English speakers. Accurate and swift translation of information are critical to the safety and security of Coast Guard boarding teams and vessel occupants. Offline capability is necessary because many of these interactions take place in extreme environmental conditions and locations without cell service or internet connections.

“DHS S&T SVIP has introduced the Coast Guard to innovative small businesses, such as TranslateLive, that can rapidly develop tools to enhance Coast Guard operator safety and mission performance. We are looking forward to seeing how TranslateLive will adapt their existing translation technology to meet Coast Guard needs,” Chaves said.

TranslateLive proposes enhancing their award-winning ILA product, which enables any two people to instantly engage in real-time simultaneous speech-to-speech and speech-to-text conversations in more than 120 different languages and accents. This Phase 1 funding will support adaptations required to fulfill Coast Guard mission requirements, such as having full offline capability and auto language detection in a hand-held, waterproof and floatable device.

“It’s been inspiring to see what is already available in the marketplace that can be adapted to fit DHS mission needs,” Oh said. “TranslateLive’s baseline capability to translate 120 different languages is an exciting starting point for this project.”

Both solicitations are open through 12 p.m. PST Feb. 20, 2021. Applications are being accepted on a continuous, rolling basis; SVIP is evaluating applications quarterly. 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.

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