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DHS SVIP Program offering funding for biometric wearables

‘Human Performance and Resilience’ monitoring targeted
DHS SVIP Program offering funding for biometric wearables

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) SVIP (Silicon Valley Innovation Program) has launched a new funding opportunity focused on biometric wearables. The SVIP awards $1.7 million through 5 funding phases, with phase 1 individual awards from $50,000 to $200,000. Submissions should focus on the human performance and resilience use cases, which specifically call out biometric wearables, along with AI enabled mobile apps and sleep/recovery enhancements. The program is accepting rolling applications up to the final April 13, 2022 deadline.

This program enables startups and other small business organizations who address the specifically defined use cases access to government funding to develop proof of concepts, pilot projects, and in-field testing of innovative biometric technologies. The government benefits from tapping commercial innovation and supports a robust, competitive marketplace, while solving for their specific government use cases.

The DHS SVIP

I became aware of the SVIP through their blockchain and distributed ledger funding where digital identity startups applied digital credential and distributed ledger technology to mitigate forgery and certificate counterfeiting in supply chains. This sounds less exciting than it is, because the goal is to trust digitally native data associated with imports in order to stop fake goods from entering the country (which is bad for the competitiveness of U.S. companies). More broadly deployed I believe this technology can help address climate change by enabling trusted digitally native credentials in the supply chain that empower end consumers to make fully informed buying decisions. This is an area of innovation that is notoriously difficult for the private sector to fund due to its size and global scope – but was successfully funded through the SVIP program.

Innovating biometrics

It’s exciting to see this program offer funding for biometric wearable devices. Start-up companies are founded to develop innovative solutions to emerging market demands. And while we may have thought governments were slow to adopt innovative technology, this has really shifted in recent years with U.S., Canadian and European governments leading the charge by investing in data protection and digital privacy programs. Venture capitalists may require their investments to collect and monetize user data as an additional revenue stream, whereas governments are enacting regulation to limit the use of collected data. A program like the SVIP is a way startups can fund their emerging technology solutions while addressing specific government use cases.

I’ve seen firsthand the innovation that was created with the blockchain portfolio investments, and it’s exciting to see that the same program is soliciting private sector innovation with biometric devices. Specifically, the program asks to: “Develop wearable biometric device(s) that capture several biometric and metabolic leading indicators that can alert the user to initiate mitigating action. Devices should have the capability to monitor, assess, and provide various means of user notification(s). Technologies that are small, lightweight, durable, accurate, and that do not interfere with mission-essential gear or clothing, such as body armor and duty belt, are preferred by the end-user community.”

SVIP was specifically designed to simplify the way in which startups can work with the government. If you are new to government funding, the SVIP program is a bit different from the usual big government style contract. The program leverages innovation from the private sector and asks companies that are not traditionally government contractors to provide solutions to pre-defined use cases. This is the government using the mechanics of a competitive market for their benefit.

An unusual opportunity

Government-supported innovation from this kind of program benefits government use cases, as well as supports industry innovation. And where venture capitalist investments have strings attached, as long as the contractual obligations are met, the government doesn’t take stock or require other kinds of influence over the company. If you are an entrepreneur, it’s hard to find a better offer (as long as your solution addresses the use cases). If you are curious about which technologies have been funded, just look through their press releases. You can see the full portfolio of investments here. The program is accepting rolling applications up to the final April 13, 2022 deadline.

About the author

Heather Vescent is a digital identity industry thought leader and futurist with more than a decade of experience delivering strategic intelligence consulting to governments, corporations and entrepreneurs. Vescent’s research has been covered in the New York Times, CNN, American Banker, CNBC, Fox and the Atlantic. She is co-author of the The Secrets of Spies, The Cyber Attack Survival Manual and The Comprehensive Guide to Self Sovereign Identity.

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