Sunday, January 17th, 2021

DHS rolls out new voice-activated system for first responders

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced the launch of a new voice-activated system to help first responders gather critical data while at the scene of an emergency.

The system, called AUDREY (Assistant for Understanding Data through Reasoning, Extraction, and Synthesis), is a human-like reasoning system like Siri or Alexa. But unlike those systems, AUDREY leverages human intelligence and collects data to achieve better machine intelligence to provide insight that first responders may not have during an emergency.

AUDREY was developed through the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T)’s Next Generation First Responder Apex program (NGFR), in partnership with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It was tested during a pilot program at the Multi Agency Communications Center (MACC) in Grant County, Washington, in the fall of 2017. It will be tested again at the Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services in Ontario, Canada, in early 2019.

“AUDREY learns, analyzes, reasons, predicts, collaborates, and provides data fusion to provide direction for first responders on the scene,” Edward Chow, manager of the Civil Programs Office at NASA JPL, said. “In other words, AUDREY has the potential to serve as a sort of guardian angel for first responders while responding to an emergency.”

The system provides situational awareness during an incident, immediately connecting first responders across different agencies with vital information.

“AUDREY provides the kind of information at an incident that may not be readily apparent to even the most seasoned first responder,” John Merrill, DHS S&T AUDREY program manager, said. “AUDREY’s purpose is to aid responders in taking all of the pertinent data related to an incident and making quicker decisions. In turn, this not only helps first responders save lives but also keeps them better protected,” Merrill concluded.

Merrill added that AUDREY is merely there to assist, not taking away people’s jobs.

“Nothing can ever take the place of human intuition. There are instances where a caller may disguise their distress, in the example of domestic abuse. Trained dispatchers are able to distinguish cues that AI cannot,” Merrill said. “AUDREY was created to learn with first responders and supplement their decisions while out in the field. There is no replacement for human intuition.