DHS contract goes to the dogs

EDITOR's NOTE: This was first published by

The Department of Homeland Security has signed PetPace LLC to provide wearable computers to track vital signs of some of its hardest working officers -- those who happen to have four legs and a tail.

DHS' Science and Technology Directorate rolled out the first award under a special solicitation for its call for wearable, personalized technologies for canines.

The $198,000 award went to PetPace for its sensor technology, The firm markets a health-sensing collar and provides a health-monitoring service based on the data received from the collar, including health dashboards and alert services.

The award to PetPace was made under the DHS Procurement Office's Silicon Valley Innovation Program Other Transaction Solicitation, an effort aimed at luring small, innovative companies with little government procurement experience into the federal technology space.

The company's technology, according to S&T, will be tested by Customs and Border Protection on dogs in the agency's many detection and search and rescue training environments.

CBP has one of the largest, most diverse canine programs in the country, with 1,500 human/canine teams performing border, port and foreign preclearance security duties; drug interdiction; and human, firearm and currency smuggling detection.

The data gathered in the training environment can be used to improve animal performance and care in the field, said Kevin McAleenan, CPB's acting commissioner, in the statement.

The devices and technologies being tested under the program face not only technical hurdles, but also some unusual environmental issues rarely observed in human IT environments.

"Devices that are attached to canines for prolonged periods have been consumed, chewed on, or otherwise destroyed by canines when not under direct supervision," warns the solicitation.

It also said dogs wearing the devices can operate out of range of their handlers, requiring the devices to store data until it can be uploaded to a handler's device. Battery life can also be an issue for candidate devices and systems, said the solicitation, given that dogs can work long or multiple shifts in rapid succession.

PetPace is being asked to demonstrate existing technology to track vital signs and physiological data and how that data can be operationalized for CBP canine teams. Other aspects of the K9 wearables solicitation are open through June 7.

The K9 wearable project is one of five opened under the DHS procurement innovation plan. Others cover cyber defense for financial services systems, drone capabilities, airport passenger processing and improving the Global Travel Assessments System. All are set to close this spring or in early summer.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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