Innovative Solutions Consortium looks to use tech to solve Loudoun’s most complex problems
A simple video of the scene could immediately tell emergency personnel as much as one could explain in a minute.
Ken Spedden, the founder of the Innovative Solutions Consortium, a national science and technology nonprofit with expertise in all aspects of technology and defense, has a vision to use a technology partnership to solve Loudoun County's largest infrastructure and public safety problems with projects like a revamped next generation 9-1-1 call center.
The call center would harness new smartphone technologies to create a more immersive experience for first responders.
Spedden calls the partnership between ISC and the county "a risk-free potential solution to pressing issues in the community."
The partnership costs Loudoun County taxpayers nothing unless the county decides it wants to eventually employ one of the solutions the consortium uncovers.
Another of the projects addresses what can be done in the case of major traffic issues caused by a natural disaster or accident.
Sensors in the road would alert responders to heavily trafficked areas or set up automated road signs which would redirect traffic based on open source web data and sensor information on the roads.
"One interesting technology element that was discussed and will probably have national implications is the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles with sensors to aid with specific search and rescue efforts," said Spedden, who hopes the use of UAVs will allow public safety officials to assess a dangerous situation like somebody caught in serious flood waters or another dangerous-to-reach spot.
Spedden sat down with members of the county's Fire and Rescue Department, the Sheriff's Office, the Department of Economic Development and other county officials last week.
Discussions boiled down major issues to three distinct need areas, which include emergency operations, more intelligent transportation capabilities and cybersecurity.
Innovative Solutions Consortium is composed of members of technology and defense contracting firms from all over the world.
Normally the consortium works with the private sector to address "hard-to-solve" problems, but in this case it would help connect a private sector company with solutions to a public entity with problems.
In Spedden's world there are few tasks he deems unworkable.
Under the emergency operations subset of projects there is one project that uses special technology to help firefighters know where rescue targets are when the firefighter enters the building.
Another of the projects the county is looking for assistance with is helping the bus system run more efficiently by tracking heavy times for use and creating automated routes based on electronic bus logs.
The Fire and Rescue Department and Sheriff's Office, among other agencies, have been closely working with Spedden to explain issues, going as far as saying they would considered using a prototype or preliminary beta version of the solutions.
Spedden starts the process of solving these problems by as he says, "taking it to the world."
He puts out the county's issue to members of the consortium explaining what solution the county is looking for. He then compiles the solutions from around the world and reviews them for feasibility at the county-wide adoption level.
Set up to introduce innovative capabilities, the ISC actually "started accidentally, by an email I sent out to some senior executives in the defense community," said Spedden.
The ISC became a nonprofit in 2011. Spedden wanted to change the way defense contractors talked with each other.
Businesses have an incentive to work with Loudoun County on these public projects because the county is a willing participant, it can provide valuable feedback and can give the company a real-life example of how their product works.
If the businesses working on solutions can do a good job helping Loudoun, eventually counties across the state or country might want to buy a version of the solution.
Speaking about why businesspeople respond to the call for solutions Spedden explained, "When we find these unique capabilities, [the businessperson's] case may be used to develop a prototype."
The other way the consortium encourages participation is by using sponsorships to create rewards for some of its proposals.
The Loudoun Department of Economic Development also hopes to harness the power of Spedden's 1,400-member organization to attract businesses.
"From a [business] attraction standpoint the benefits are obvious, and from a retention standpoint it's going to be similar," said Steve Hargan the business development manager for the county Department of Economic Development.
Hargan says it's an easy way for companies to reach partners or potential clients.
"I tell my team this all the time. 'The only people that don't make mistakes are the people not doing anything,'" said Hargan.
Hargan explained that ISC has "technologies across the spectrum," and "their presence in Loudoun is going to be a magnet."
Spedden says members of the consortium could be a mentor to small businesses in the county.
"We can help retain and bring in new innovative technologies to the company and potentially fund innovative companies," Spedden said.
Solutions will be demonstrated live in August at an event hosted by the county.