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FY2013 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Challenge: Delivering Mission Critical Voice Communications for Law Enforcement and Public Safety Responders in the COTS LTE Environment


Congratulations to Jon Melvin for winning Phase I of the Challenge. Thank you to all of those who submitted a response.

On this page find:

I. Overview

Increased access to mobile broadband services is vital to law enforcement and other public safety responders. Broadband communications offers the potential for greater efficiencies and new capabilities in day-to-day operations, response to critical incidents, and management of major events. Broadband communications offers the ability to access and share large amounts of data, including video, in a timely fashion, while on the move. Broadband communications can enhance the performance of routine data applications currently available to and used by law enforcement agencies, such as checking vehicle registration in a department of motor vehicle's database, or using a mobile fingerprint scanner to run an identity check against an AFIS database. It can also provide access to new capabilities such as mobile, bi-directional, streaming video, and enhanced mobile office applications.

Recognizing the potential offered by broadband communications to enhance public safety, Congress directed the establishment of a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. The FCC required that all networks deployed in the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum adopt LTE.

This Challenge seeks innovative solutions to providing mission-critical voice communications services for law enforcement and other public safety responders within the LTE Environment using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology, which are achievable within five years of the Challenge prize being awarded. For purposes of this Challenge, this capability is defined as instant communications with a defined set of mobile users either in a 'one-to-all,' 'one-to-some' or 'one-to-one' mode based on the supervisory responsibility of the user and/or the urgency of their need (e.g., threats to life, mission criticality) for access. The proposed solution should ensure mission-critical voice communications in all environments (e.g., urban, rural, wilderness) and in the face of communications infrastructure challenges, such as (1) where there is no terrestrial communications infrastructure; (2) where the existing infrastructure has been compromised or damaged; and (3) confined areas (e.g., subways, buildings, underground garages).

A Challenge prize of up to $50,000 is available (See Section VI). The Challenge will use a two-stage submission process described below.

II. How to Enter

Contestants must submit their entries via the “National Institute of Justice Delivering Mission-Critical Voice Communications for Law Enforcement and Public Safety Responders in the COTS LTE Environment” Challenge announcement during the Challenge Submission Period. Entries must be made through the Office of Justice Programs Grants Management System (GMS). Registration and entry are free.

Phase 1: Contestants shall submit a prospectus that describes: (1) the proposed solution; (2) how it will be implemented; (3) the expected cost of that implementation; and (4) the solution’s technical feasibility.

Proposals in Phase 1 must include:

  • A prospectus that shall not exceed 10 pages, (12 pt. font; double spaced) submitted in PDF format.
  • A cover page for the prospectus (not counted against the 10-page limit).

Once an entry is submitted, no changes may be made. Any entry exceeding the page limits or failing to address the four key elements noted above will be disqualified. All qualifying Phase 1 entries will be judged according to the Judging Criteria.

Phase 2: Based upon Phase 1 entries, up to five contestants may be invited to participate in Phase 2 and submit a full proposal to describe their proposed solutions in more detail. Those selected for Phase 2 will be the highest scoring, viable solutions submitted in Phase 1.

The Phase 2 proposal should elaborate on the key elements included in the Phase 1 prospectus. Proposals that deviate from the prospectus in terms of substance, methodology, or technical feasibility will be disqualified.

Phase 2 entries must include:

  • A full proposal that shall not exceed 30 pages (12 pt. font; double spaced) submitted in PDF format.
  • A cover page (not counted against the 30-page limit), submitted in PDF format.

Once a proposal is submitted, no changes may be made. Any entry exceeding the page limits will be disqualified. All qualifying entries will be judged according to the “Judging Criteria” described in Section V.

III. Important Dates — Revised

  • Phase 1 Submission Period Begins: September 20, 2013.
  • Phase 1 Submission Period Ends: February 14, 2014.
  • Phase 1 Winners Announced: September 8, 2014.
  • Phase 2 Submission Period Ends: November 20, 2014.
  • Phase 2 Winners Announced: Late first quarter 2015.

IV. Judges

The Challenge will be judged by a distinguished panel of judges with expertise in one or more of the following areas: law enforcement, communications, and information technology. Phase 1 and Phase 2 entries will be judged according to the criteria listed in Section V. Reviewer ratings and recommendations are advisory. The Director of NIJ or his designee will make the final award determination(s). If the Director of NIJ determines that no entry is deserving of the prize, no prize will be awarded. The award of any prize is subject to the availability of appropriated funds.

V. Judging Criteria

The following criteria will be used in reviewing the Challenge submissions.

  • (A) Technical feasibility (65%)
    • How successful is the proposed solution likely to be in the COTS LTE environment?
    • Will development and implementation ensure communications between a first response team in any environmental condition with no dependency on preexisting communications infrastructure?
    • What evidence currently supports the proposed solution? Experiments? Peer-reviewed publications?
    • Will the proposed solution fit within the COTS Long-Term Evolution (LTE) environment?
    • What is the likelihood that, if necessary, the Federal Communications Commission will approve the proposed solution?
  • (B) Business model feasibility (35%)
    • How difficult will it be for law enforcement and public safety officers to learn to use the proposed solution?
    • How efficient will it be to use the proposed solution?
    • Can the proposed solution function in today’s COTS LTE environment marketplace?
    • What has to be changed in the COTS LTE environment for the proposed solution to work?
    • Is deployment of the proposed solution economically realistic in COTS LTE environment?
    • How soon can the proposed solution be put into production or into the standards making process?

VI. Prizes

A total Challenge prize of up to $50,000 is available. Of that total prize amount, $25,000 will be apportioned equally among the contestants invited to submit a Phase 2 proposal. The remaining $25,000 will be awarded to the contestant deemed to be the winner of Phase 2. Should there be a tie score, the Phase 2 prize will be apportioned among the winners equally. In the case of a team entry, the team will be considered a contestant and receive any prize money as a group.

Subject to the availability of appropriated funds and to any modifications or additional requirements that may be imposed by law, the contestant(s) submitting a winning solution at the end of Phase 2 may be afforded the opportunity to develop the proposed approach. Should the approach already be at an advanced level of technical readiness, winning contestants may be afforded the opportunity to have the solution evaluated by one or more law enforcement or other public safety agencies in collaboration with NIJ and other Federal agencies.

All prizes awarded will be at the discretion of the NIJ Director.

VII. Other Rules and Conditions

Submission Period

The Challenge Phase 1 Submission Period begins on September 20, 2013, and ends on February 14, 2014. The Challenge Phase 2 Submission Period begins on May 13, 2014, and ends on August 11, 2014. Entries submitted before or after the designated Submission Periods will not be reviewed.


The Challenge is open to: (1) individual residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa who are at least 13 years old at the time of entry; (2) teams of eligible individuals; and (3) corporations or other legal entities (e.g., partnerships or nonprofit organizations) that are domiciled in any jurisdiction specified in (1). Entries by contestants under the age of 18 must include the co-signature of the contestant’s parent or legal guardian. Contestants may submit or participate in the submission of more than one entry. Employees of NIJ and individuals or entities listed on the Federal Excluded Parties list (available from SAM.gov) are not eligible to participate. Employees of the Federal Government should consult with the Ethics Officer at their place of employment prior to submitting an entry for this Challenge. The Challenge is subject to all applicable federal laws and regulations. Submission of an entry constitutes a contestant's full and unconditional agreement to all applicable rules and conditions. Eligibility for the prize award(s) is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.

General Warranties and Conditions

  • Release of Liability: By entering the Challenge, each contestant agrees to: (a) comply with and be bound by all applicable rules and conditions, and the decisions of NIJ, which are binding and final in all matters relating to this Challenge; (b) release and hold harmless NIJ and any other organizations responsible for sponsoring, fulfilling, administering, advertising or promoting the Challenge, and all of their respective past and present officers, directors, employees, agents and representatives (collectively, the "Released Parties") from and against any and all claims, expenses, and liability arising out of or relating to the contestant’s entry or participation in the Challenge, and/or the contestant’s acceptance, use, or misuse of the prize or recognition.

The Released Parties are not responsible for: (a) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by contestants, printing errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with, or utilized in, the Challenge; (b) technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; (c) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Challenge; (d) technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the Challenge or the processing of entries; or (e) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from contestant's participation in the Challenge or receipt or use or misuse of any prize. If for any reason a contestant's entry is confirmed to have been erroneously deleted, lost, or otherwise destroyed or corrupted, contestant's sole remedy is to submit another entry in the Challenge.

  • Termination and Disqualification: NIJ reserves the authority to cancel, suspend, and/or modify the Challenge, or any part of it, if any fraud, technical failures, or any other factor beyond NIJ’s reasonable control impairs the integrity or proper functioning of the Challenge, as determined by NIJ in its sole discretion. NIJ reserves the authority to disqualify any contestant it believes to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Challenge or to be acting in violation of any applicable rule or condition. Any attempt by any person to undermine the legitimate operation of the Challenge may be a violation of criminal and civil law, and, should such an attempt be made, NIJ reserves the authority to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law. NIJ’s failure to enforce any term of any applicable rule or condition shall not constitute a waiver of that term.
  • Intellectual Property: By entering the Challenge, each contestant warrants that (a) he or she is the author and/or authorized owner of the entry; (b) that the entry is wholly original with the contestant (or is an improved version of an existing solution that the contestant is legally authorized to enter in the Challenge); (c) that the submitted entry does not infringe any copyright, patent, or any other rights of any third party; and (d) that the contestant has the legal authority to assign and transfer to NIJ all necessary rights and interest (past, present, and future) under copyright and other intellectual property law, for all material included in the Challenge proposal that may be held by the contestant and/or the legal holder of those rights. Each contestant agrees to hold the Released Parties harmless for any infringement of copyright, trademark, patent, and/or other real or intellectual property right, which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from contestant's participation in the Challenge.
  • Publicity: By entering the Challenge, each contestant consents, as applicable, to NIJ’s use of his/her/its name, likeness, photograph, voice, and/or opinions, and disclosure of his/her/its hometown and State for promotional purposes in any media, worldwide, without further payment or consideration.
  • Privacy: Personal and contact information submitted through https://grants.ojp.usdoj.gov is not collected for commercial or marketing purposes. Information submitted throughout the Challenge will be used only to communicate with contestants regarding entries and/or the Challenge.
  • Compliance With Law: By entering the Challenge, each contestant guarantees that the entry complies with all federal and state laws and regulations.

VIII. Prize Disbursement and Challenge Winners

  1. Prize Disbursement and Requirements: Prize winners must comport with all applicable laws and regulations regarding prize receipt and disbursement. For example, NIJ is not responsible for withholding any applicable taxes from the award.
  2. Specific Disqualification Rule: If the announced winner(s) of the Challenge prize is found to be ineligible or is disqualified for any reason listed under “Other Rules and Conditions: Eligibility,” NIJ may make the award to the next runner(s) up, as previously determined by the NIJ Director
  3. Rights Retained by Contestants and Challenge Winners:
    1. All legal rights in any materials or products submitted in entering the Challenge are retained by the contestant and/or the legal holder of those rights. Entry in the Challenge constitutes express authorization for NIJ staff and NIJ’s selected panel of judges to review and analyze any and all aspects of submitted entries, including the source code and any trade secret or proprietary information contained in or evident from review of the Challenge entry.
    2. Upon acceptance of any Challenge prizes, the winning contestant(s) grant a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual and irrevocable right to the National Institute of Justice to use, and authorize others to use the winning solution (in whole or in part, including in connection with derivative works) for federal purposes.

IX. Contact Information

For substantive questions about the Challenge, e-mail NIJ at [email protected].

Date Published: October 21, 2013