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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — PBS North Carolina, jointly with the North Carolina Department of Informational Technology (NCDIT)’s First Responder Emerging Technologies (FirstTech) program and North Carolina-based Device Solutions Inc., announces the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant awarded by the Department of Homeland Security to continue the development of a new emergency digital paging system over public television.

The emergency digital paging system utilizes digital ATSC 3.0 TV technology to deliver an affordable paging structure to improve situational awareness and response time for first responders across the state of North Carolina. The system will help first responders with increased coverage area and penetration, reduce delay and provide a secure and reliable means for transmitting emergency alerts.

After successfully demonstrating the feasibility of the system during Phase 1 of the project, Device Solutions, with support from PBS North Carolina and NCDIT, was selected to participate in the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corp program to further develop detailed business model requirements in support of being awarded a follow-on Phase II contract.  Over the course of 7 weeks in February and March 2021, Device Solutions interviewed over 100 first responders and emergency communications agencies across the country to understand the needs of first responders and develop an initial design.

“Device Solutions is grateful to have been selected for a Phase II SBIR award for Emergency Digital Paging Over Public Television (eDPPT) and we are thrilled to be working with PBS North Carolina and the North Carolina Department of Information Technology,” says Bob Witter, President of Device Solutions, Inc. “The cooperation and insights we have received from these organizations was a key driver in our Phase I success. We look forward to the continued relationship and successful engineering and testing of a prototype paging system that will improve the situational awareness and safety of our emergency responders.”

Chief Technology Officer at PBS North Carolina, Fred Engel, notes, “This award allows us to continue to explore the many other capabilities of this technology that will serve the public, starting with emergency communications. PBS North Carolina is honored to work with Device Solutions and NCDIT to further our commitment to reliable emergency response and safety for all North Carolinians.”

“It’s very exciting to see how this research will advance the time it takes for dispatch information to reach first responders in the field,” said Red Grasso, North Carolina’s FirstTech program director. “This technology brings a perfect synergy between public television and public safety to benefit our society with a new way to get data and information to first responders.”

“Technology is ingrained in our society, and we have to learn to adapt to the speed in which it changes how we function in our day-to-day lives,” said NCDIT Secretary and State CIO Jim Weaver. “FirstTech’s partnership with PBS NC is a great example of how we can take advantage of changing technologies to serve our communities in a positive way.”