The company took the top spot at the live demonstration event with their solution to assure communications in degraded environments.

5G Open Innovation Lab took home the $30,000 first prize after giving service members and judges a hands-on preview of their life-saving communications technology during the final round of the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) Catastrophic Communications Challenge – held in partnership with the Washington Air National Guard’s (WA ANG) 194 Communications Squadron.

5G Open Innovation Lab was one of four teams that made it to the final round and demonstrated technologies to assure communications during volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters as they competed for part of a $75,000 prize pool at the Catastrophic Communications Challenge Demonstration Event held at Camp Murray in Washington.

The solutions presented represented a marked improvement over those currently available to the WA ANG. In an interview Col. Ryan Price, Commander of the 194th Mission Support Group, shared, “The Air National Guard’s current capabilities are bulky, costly to operate, difficult to transport, and have significantly lower capabilities. They have not kept pace with industry. (…) The innovation being produced through NSIN, such as what this Catastrophic Communications Challenge is doing, will directly impact our ability to support better and meet the needs of our community during future catastrophic incidents.”

During the challenge, 5G Open Innovation lab delivered their KTEN or Khasm Tactical Edge Network, a secure, standalone 5G network with edge computing capabilities. The system was designed to work off a satellite backhaul service and operate in environments where it is the only communication network connecting DOMOPS crews to critical applications and to one another.

The top four teams emerged from a field of 12 semi-finalists and adapted their technologies to provide effective, immediate communication in degraded communications environments to help the WA ANG face domestic operations (DOMOPS) and natural disasters.

Persistent Systems, Ecrio and GXC (who partnered together to deliver their solution), and Allosense were awarded second, third, and fourth places and took home $20,000, $15,000, $5,000, respectively. The teams had previously recieved $1,000 each upon making it final round.

Second place winner, Persistent Systems, presented their Wave Relay Mobile Ad Hoc Network (MANET) mesh communications system which maintains connectivity and route data across hundreds of fully mobile radios without artificially limiting their hop count or range.

Ecrio and GXC pitched their Commercial, Private 5G Communication Network in a Box (“C-NIB”) to take the third place spot. C-NIB is a portable edge solution that provides cellular terrestrial Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and 5G communication for local, cloud-free connectivity that can be augmented with a satellite terminal for wide-area multi-site deployments.

Allosense shared their Mobile HaLow Access Point solution to round out the top four. The system transforms a portable diagnostic tool into a versatile, rapidly-deployable IEEE 802.11ah (“HaLow”) access point that enables mesh communications with a range of more than one kilometer with enhanced security and encryption.

For the companies, the cash prizes represented only part of the value of the challenge. The real impact to their businesses came from the connections to end-users who provided input that will guide them going forward. “[The challenge] provided a great opportunity for direct feedback from teams working actively in these engagements as to their unique challenges and requirements,” said Ecrio CEO Michel Gannage.

“Lives are at stake when the Guardsmen are called to serve their communities; they need their communications tools to perform,” shared NSIN Venture Portfolio Director and DIU Deputy Chief of Global Partnerships Abigail Desjardins. “I was happy to see that these teams understood the importance of taking in that end-user feedback to create the highest possible performing solutions.”

About National Security Innovation Network

NSIN is a program office in the U.S. Department of Defense, nested within the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). We are set up to collaborate with a wide variety of innovators to include universities, researchers, students, entrepreneurs and start-ups. We create opportunities for collaboration across communities and connect those that might not traditionally work in national security. Together, we help drive national security innovation and develop technologies that directly support the individuals responsible for protecting our country.

For more information or interview requests with Team NSIN, please contact us at