Nine companies got the opportunity to demonstrate their technologies before industry first responders at Disaster City in College Station on Friday during the final round of the inaugural Under Fire Response Innovation Showdown.
The competition was hosted by the Texas A&M Experiment Station Product Development Center and began Thursday with a pitch event featuring 20 companies coming from 11 states and Switzerland.
The 10 finalists were invited to demonstrate their technologies firsthand Friday morning for the final round of the competition. One of the finalist teams, Bryan-based ResponderX, was not able to participate in Friday’s presentations, though the reason was not immediately clear.
TEEX Product Development Center Manager Caleb Holt said the event was designed to accomplish three priorities: to expose first responders to emerging technologies that they could use in the real world to make their jobs easier and safer, to show companies to the resources and facilities available at the TEEX Disaster City campus and to build the Product Development Center’s network of partners throughout the industry and first responder communities.
“We want the community to know we’re working toward making public safety the best we can for first responders, but also for citizens,” he said.
Following the nine morning presentations, companies Bounce Imaging, Veterans MFG and DetectaChem, in descending order, received the top three spots, respectively.
Bounce, which received $4,000 for the top spot, has developed a roughly softball-sized 360-degree camera designed to be able to be thrown into potentially hostile situations to give first responders a better idea of what is ahead.
Veterans MFG received $3,000 for its body armor and bullet-resistant products.
Coming in at third place with $2,000, the product presented by DetectaChem focused on trace drug detection using the combination of a swab kit and a smartphone application developed to analyze the sample in the field.
Holt said all 20 of the companies invited to College Station for the pitch event were awarded $500 each and the top 10 were guaranteed at least another $500.
Throughout the morning, each team was spread throughout the Disaster City site and gave participating first responders 30 minute-presentations for their product.
Jason Tracy, who represented DetectaChem in the competition, said while winning would have certainly been a positive, his company was just as interested in getting its product in front of first responders to raise awareness of its availability.
“Frankly, for us its not really about winning,” Tracy said. “It’s about getting in front of all these first responders and showing them our equipment because [our product] is a fielded product. You can go online and buy it right now. We just want to get the word out and show everybody what it can do.”
Mathieu Buyse, CEO of RSQ Systems, said he, too, was excited to get his company’s technology in front of first responders to help share the opportunities it can provide.
Originally a Belgium-based company, Buyse said RSQ has partnered with the Research Valley Partnership and Texas A&M University to further develop its technology designed to provide first responders with an additional method with which to record a scene.
Currently in the prototype phase, Buyse said the technology would use a drone tethered to a law enforcement vehicle and equipped with four overlapping cameras to provide a 360-degree recording of the surrounding area.
“We’re really proud to be here,” Buyse said. “It’s the kind of event we really want to participate in. Our goal is to save lives and bring the best procedures possible to the people who are helping us in rescue missions and public safety.”
He said getting to present in front of the first responders who may one day use his company’s technology was an “exciting opportunity” to share with them his vision for what he believes could be one of the most “efficient and useful technologies” available to gather large quantities of photos and data to use for evidence, training or documenting purposes.
“I think it can also really help to enhance the way [officials] act during interventions and help to identify improvements to procedures,” he said.
In addition to the top three prizes, RSQ, Veterans MFG and HAAS Alert all received $5,000 awards of in-kind services.
Holt said the second Under Fire event has already been planned for March 2019. Moving forward, he said he would like to see the competition continue to grow not only in the prizes it offers to winners, but also the network of companies and first responders it connects.
To learn more about the TEEX Product Development Center, visit teexpdc.com