'Beat the Blaze' hackathon challenges participants to increase the information sharing capacity and capabilities between the National Guard and civilian emergency response agencies during wildfire operations

The National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), a Department of Defense program, today announced the finalists and VIP judges’ panel for the ‘Beat the Blaze’ hackathon. The competition challenges participants to develop creative solutions to deliver full situational awareness to wildfire first responders, including the National Guard and interagency partners.

The virtual event concludes on Friday, April 16. ‘Beat the Blaze’ challenges anyone creative and interested in solving communications and information sharing challenges during wildfire operations. Coding experience is not required. However, the potential solutions most likely revolve around hardware, software, data, and information sharing issues. Winning concepts will earn up to $15,000 to continue developing their prototype solution.

Strategic partners for the ‘Beat the Blaze’ hackathon include the U.S. Air Force 163rd Attack Wing, The Hap Arnold Innovation Center, ARCWERX, Arizona State University, University of California at Berkeley, San Diego State University, and the University of Washington’s CoMotion program.

A total of 10 teams were selected from more than 450 hackathon registrants, representing a mix of student and early-stage ventures for the finalist round of pitches. The finalist teams are:

  • FireTrace - FireTrace is a video processing system driven by deep learning and virtual simulation that delivers real-time fire perimeter intelligence.
  • Keep It Simple FireView - KISFireView provides actionable analysis of the vast amount of available data in a way that can be consumed by the different tools used at each level of command.
  • Autonodyne- Autonodyne puts the human in a supervisory role commanding high-level behaviors.
  • CyberWinterStudios - utilize Swimlane, an “API First,” python based, COTS automation and orchestration platform as the foundational framework for the Automated Wildfire Operations Support Platform.
  • Perimeter - Perimeter is a situational intelligence platform that shares information between fire personnel in real-time as an incident progresses in order to protect our communities from natural disasters.
  • Firelink - provides a way to quickly communicate information from roaming drones utilizing infrared lasers, which are capable of data transmission under smoky conditions.
  • OpenRange.org - is a ‘swords to plowshares’ effort, using an Open Source foundation non-profit business model to build community, and evolve new technologies.
  • L.I.T.E. - The LoRa Intercommunication Terrain Ecosystem is a low powered mesh ecosystem designed to help fight fires before and while they happen. These wide-area networks will help beat wildfires by creating a mesh ecosystem that scans areas and calculates threats in real time.
  • WICS - a comprehensive common operating platform that enhances the mobilization capabilities of local, state, and federal bodies (like FEMA and the National Guard) by centralizing file sharing and form processing and then condensing relevant information into a single clean dashboard for high-level situational awareness.
  • Infernodes Communication Network - An interconnected, frequency-based passive communication system of lightweight IoT devices.

A panel of esteemed industry and military partners will evaluate these finalists based on the viability of proposed solutions and focus on at least one of two key focus areas, including:

Hardware – Given the number of interagency partners and platforms, there may be an opportunity to resolve key questions such as:

  • Is the network capacity during emergencies capable of sharing data sizes up to Terabytes of data?
  • Are there ways to extend the range and capacity?
  • Can current electronic devices withstand the stresses of wildfire operations?
  • Could device capacity be enhanced while optimizing size, weight, and power?

Software and Data – The current method for sharing data between agencies include converting files to different formats manually and sharing data on physical media or cloud-hosted platforms. Key questions may include:

  • Are there ways to collect and harmonize sensor feeds from different stakeholders into a common operating procedure?
  • Are there improvements to the user interface that could help end-users understand and process sensor data?
  • Can sensor data formats be harmonized to provide a uniform solution usable by different organizations?
  • Could Artificial Intelligence (AI) or machine learning techniques quickly process and identify key points within large data sets for further analysis or action?
  • Is there adequate bandwidth and capacity to store and share data?

Judges for the ‘Beat the Blaze’ hackathon final round include:

  • Major General Matthew Beevers: Deputy Adjutant General of the California National Guard.
  • Brigadier General Nick Ducich: Vice Director, Operations Directorate of the National Guard Bureau, Arlington, Va.
  • Brigadier General Troy Daniels: Commander, Joint Task Force Arizona. He is responsible for coordinating and executing joint operations, plans, policies, and initiatives that prepare the Arizona National Guard to respond to requests for support from civil authorities during state or federal emergencies.
  • Col Robert Bell: Director of Cyberspace Operations for the Alabama Air National Guard located at Joint Force Headquarters, Montgomery, Alabama.
  • Col Chris Dinote: Director, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) at the Continental United States North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, First Air Force, Air Forces Northern, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
  • Alex Diaz: leads Crisis Response and Humanitarian Aid at Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm.
  • Jake Chapman: is Co-founder and General Partner at Alpha Bridge Ventures where he focuses on dfedereep tech companies at the post-seed stage of development.
  • Jay Song: Chief Information Officer at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the largest forestry and fire protection agency in the U.S.
  • Mike Sims: is a Venture Associate at Lux Capital, where he scouts for game- changing technologies and helps portfolio companies fulfill national security needs.
  • Dr. Sarah Stone: Executive Director of the University of Washington eScience Institute, the campus hub for data-intensive discovery. She also directs the summer U.W. Data Science for Social Good (D.S.S.G.) program.
  • Tom Camp: Principal for the Verizon Ventures team. His primary role is to help manage the relationships their portfolio companies have with Verizon Ventures and the business and network teams.
  • Vani Mandava: Director of Data Science at Microsoft Research at Redmond with over a decade of experience in engineering teams designing and shipping software used by millions of users across the world.

About NSIN

The NSIN mission is to “build networks of innovators that generate new solutions to national security problems.” NSIN is headquartered in Arlington, VA, and has regional offices in 11 commercial innovation hubs throughout the United States. Through its headquarters, regional hubs, and embedded university partnerships, NSIN builds a national network of innovators and delivers programming that solves real-world, DoD problems through collaborative partnerships with non-traditional problem-solvers within the academic and early-stage venture communities.