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NIJ Ultra-High Speed Apps Challenge: Using Current Technology to Improve Criminal Justice Operations

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About the Ultra-High Speed Apps Challenge

NIJ created the Ultra-High Speed (UHS) Application Challenge to encourage software developers and public safety professionals to take advantage of public domain data and UHS bandwidth systems with apps that significantly improve criminal justice or public safety services and operations. Currently, most app developers optimize their software for slower and lower capacity networks. The prospect of UHS networks capable of transferring large amounts of data more quickly and reliably creates new opportunities for developers.

The challenge was created with guidance from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and US Ignite.

The challenge was held in two phases. NIJ selected five of 15 Phase I proposals to participate in Phase II, which involved developing a working prototype of the app. NIJ selected three winning entries from Phase II to share the prize of $150,000.

Challenge Winners

NIJ selected three winning entries from among the Phase II contestants. The winning entries provide real-time and individually tailored information to practitioners in rapidly evolving emergency situations, as well as opening doors to more powerful analytical and management tools. The winners are:

First Place: City of Ammon, school emergency screencast application
Prize: $75,000

The school emergency screencast application works with a school’s existing camera systems, UHS bandwidth and gunshot detection hardware to report gunshot fire immediately to first responders.  Emergency personnel can then turn on the video and audio feeds to identify the shooter, providing potentially life-saving information that can improve response time and tactical decisions.

Second Place: City of Torrance, UHS mapping application
Prize: $50,000

The UHS Mapping application empowers individual businesses, schools and other building owners to share their location and other data, such as maps, floor plans, parking structures, video, dangerous chemicals list, with first responders. This can improve first responder safety and facilitate field operations, particularly in high-risk incidents.

Third Place: Forensic Logic, Inc., LEAP Network video application
Prize: $25,000

The LEAP network connects public CCTV with law enforcement records and open-source GIS platforms. This allows law enforcement agencies to search video feeds from a range of video management software live or after a crime is reported. The system is capable of connecting to body-worn or dashboard cameras and allowing private CCTV or video clips filmed by the public to be uploaded. 

Phase I Winners
The Phase I winners demonstrated the potential for measurably improving services and operations in areas such as school safety, crime mapping, video technology and data streaming. In addition to the three UHS winners, we would like to acknowledge the other Phase I winners who were selected to participate in Phase II:

  • Brian Farrell & Peter Sforza, Virginia
  • Kova Corp., New Jersey

Original Challenge Details

Following is the original challenge released by NIJ in September of 2013.


The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice and is dedicated to improving knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues through science. The National Institute of Justice provides objective and independent knowledge and tools to reduce crime and promote justice, particularly at the state and local levels.

The National Institute of Justice, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) seek to promote the development and evaluation of criminal justice software applications (apps) that are compatible with Ultra-High-Speed (UHS) networks (100Mbps symmetrical up to 1Gbps symmetrical). The National Institute of Justice offers this Challenge as a call to design and create UHS-compatible apps that measurably improve the efficiency and/or effectiveness of criminal justice and public safety services and operation.


The expansion of UHS networks offers increased opportunity for the development of “disruptive” criminal justice apps – apps that actually change the way services and information are delivered to criminal justice and other public safety practitioners.  New UHS apps now have the potential to provide ubiquitous, real-time, individually tailored information and decision-support for criminal justice and public safety practitioners in rapidly evolving emergency situations, and the increased capacity of UHS systems now makes it possible to merge and manipulate data allowing for the development and use of powerful analytical and management tools.  Contestants therefore should think broadly and creatively in designing UHS apps that may be used to improve effectiveness and/or efficiency in a variety of criminal justice and public safety contexts.

Using data already in the public domain, and aided by newly emerging UHS bandwidth systems, software developers are now able to develop apps that will significantly improve criminal justice and public safety operations in numerous ways, including:

  • Alerting the criminal justice and public safety communities to predictable threats and disasters.
  • Providing timely information necessary to mitigate the impact of unpreventable disasters and avoid preventable disasters.
  • Enhancing modeling and simulation capabilities for law enforcement and first-responders.
  • Enhancing resource management and analytical tools.
  • Improving training experiences and opportunities for first-responders law enforcement officers, and others who provide public safety services.

These examples are provided for guidance and are not exhaustive.

In an effort to “jump start” UHS growth and app development nationwide, the White House OSTP has sponsored a demonstration partnership — the US IGNITE initiative.  US IGNITE provides internet users with UHS internet access and links UHS communities[1] across the nation in an effort to increase development and use of sophisticated analytical tools, data sharing capabilities, and mobile apps.

Prior to implementation of UHS networks, internet developers faced a persistent and growing challenge: how to get as much data as possible to end users through a series of increasingly restrictive data pipelines.  As a result, today’s web developers generally optimize their creations for lowest-common-denominator speed, and minimize the amount of data that has to be delivered.  Video streams are always highly compressed; real-time interactions are buffered and delayed; and critical data are only cached on computers or at various far-away data centers.

However, with increased proliferation of UHS networks such as US IGNITE, developers are no longer restricted by these constraints.  Instead, they are free to create apps with greater capability than previously possible.  There are citywide and local networks in the US today where these changes have already occurred — permitting the development of creative and disruptive apps capable of significantly improving the effectiveness and/or efficiency of criminal justice and public safety operations.  View examples of previously developed UHS applications designed in conjunction with the US IGNITE initiative.

Importantly, the expansion of UHS networks provides startups and students with the same opportunity as industry and researchers involved in developing, testing, and deploying next-generation apps and services.  This, in turn, increases the opportunity to leverage the combined resources and capabilities of industry, government, and academia in developing new, high-speed-compatible public safety apps.

Through this Challenge, NIJ seeks to encourage the development, use, and evaluation of UHS apps capable of improving criminal justice and public safety efficiency and/or effectiveness; and develop models for measuring and quantifying the specific impact of these apps.  It is anticipated that this Challenge will help to accelerate the development and deployment of UHS applications in many other fields

Challenge Submissions

All Challenge submissions must demonstrate appropriate knowledge of applicable technologies and criminal justice concerns. Submissions from public and private entities, labs, startups, students, and others are encouraged. It is recommended that submissions be developed in collaboration with (1) a consulting criminal justice agency capable of providing insight into available data and agency operations; (2) a UHS provider capable of providing necessary information regarding network specifications and capabilities; and (3) a software developer. All submissions must demonstrate a need for the software application (i.e., what shortcoming in service delivery will be overcome?); articulate the manner in which the application will improve criminal justice effectiveness and/or efficiency; specify the public access databases used to support the application, and the proposed method of acquiring and updating these data; and identify appropriate and obtainable impact measures.

How to Enter

Contestants must submit their entries via the “Ultra-High-Speed Apps Challenge” announcement during the Challenge Submission Period.  Entries must be made through the Office of Justice Programs Grants Management System (GMS).  Team entries (including at least one developer, UHS network provider, and criminal justice entity) are preferred. 

The Challenge will use a two-stage submission process. 

Phase I — Software Application Proposal Submissions

Proposals in Phase I shall include:

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

The prospectus must address the following: (1) a description of the proposed software application and its purpose; (2) how the application will be implemented in the field, including the geographic range and specifications of the UHS network on which it will operate; (3) the proposed data sets used in the software application, along with plans for obtaining access or collecting original data (public access, non-proprietary datasets are preferred for this Challenge); (4) the purpose of the proposed software application — demonstrating an understanding of existing needs and information deficits; (5) anticipated impact of the software application in terms of improved efficiency and/or effectiveness; (6) and, proposed methods for impact measurement. 

A brief biographical sketch of each team member (not counted against the 10-page limit) describing any relevant qualifications or experience is encouraged, but not required.

Once an entry is submitted, no changes may be made.  Any entry exceeding the page limits, or failing to address the six key elements, will be disqualified.  Up to 10 of the highest scoring, most viable proposals submitted in Phase I may be selected to participate in Phase II of the Challenge. 

Phase II — Software Application Proposal Submissions

Winners of Phase I will be invited to submit applications for the second phase of the Challenge.

Phase II entries shall include:

  • A brief (approximately four-minute) video describing the software application and its purpose with an in-use demonstration.
  • A working prototype of the software, and corresponding application.
  • A listing of each data set used.  This must include a description of the data set, and the public web address where the data can be accessed.  If the data is not publicly accessible, the contestant must explain how the dataset can be accessed and used on an, on-going and cost-efficient basis.
  • A methodology (not exceeding 10 pages; 12 pt. font, double spaced; submitted in PDF format) for evaluating the ongoing impact of the software application - to include specific outcome measures and data collection method.

Important Dates — Revised

These dates were revised on August 27, 2014.

  • Phase I submission period: September 27, 2013 – Feb 14, 2014.
  • Phase I judging period:  Feb 17, 2014 –April 25, 2014.
  • Phase I winners announced and Phase II invitations posted: May 2014.
  • Phase II submission period: May 9, 2014 – October 15, 2014.
  • Phase II judging period:  October 1, 2014 – November 28, 2014.
  • Phase II Winners Announced:  Early 2015.


Challenge submissions will be judged by a distinguished panel of individuals with expertise in one or more of the following areas: criminal justice, public management, application development, emergency management, and network management. Entries will be judged according to the criteria listed in Section IV. Reviewer ratings and recommendations are advisory. The Director of NIJ or his/her designee will make the final award determination. If the Director of NIJ determines that no entry is deserving of the award, no prize will be awarded. The award of any prize is subject to the availability of appropriated funds.

Judging Criteria

The following criteria will be used to judge Challenge entries:

  • Contribution of the application towards improving the effectiveness and/or efficiency of criminal justice services (60%).
  • Ease of implementing the application by state and local criminal justice agencies, including considerations of platform, and time and cost requirements (15%).
  • Practicality of data set selection in terms of relevance, ease of acquisition, and ongoing access (15%).
  • Feasibility of evaluation methodology and impact measurement (10%).


The $150,000 Challenge prize money will be divided among three Phase II winning entries as follows:

  • First Prize: $75,000.
  • Second Prize: $50,000.
  • Third Prize: $25,000.

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 contestants submitting the winning solution may be afforded the opportunity to participate in one or more related NIJ-sponsored events held subsequent to the Challenge contest. 

Other Rules and Conditions

Submission Period

Entries submitted before or after the designated Submission Periods (Section II) 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: (1) 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; (2) release and hold harmless NIJ and any other organizations responsible for sponsoring, fulfilling, administering, advertising or promoting the Challenge, and all 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: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by contestants, printing errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or used  in the Challenge; (2) technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; (3) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Challenge; (4) technical or human error that may occur in the administration of the Challenge or the processing of entries; or (5) any injury or damage to persons or property that 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 deleted erroneously, 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 he or she is the author and/or authorized owner of the entry, and 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), and that the submitted entry does not infringe any copyright, patent, or any other rights of any third party. Each contestant agrees to hold the Released Parties harmless for any infringement of copyright, trademark, patent, and/or other real or intellectual property right that 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 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.
  • Malware: Each contestant warrants that his or her submission is free of viruses, spyware, malware, or any other malicious, harmful, or destructive device. Contestants submitting entries containing any such device will be held liable and may be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Special Disqualification Rule

If any of the announced winners of the Challenge prize are found to be ineligible or are disqualified for any of the reasons listed under Section VI, Other Rules and Conditions, NIJ may make the award, instead, to the next runner up, as previously determined by the NIJ Director.

Winner and Recognition

Following the announcement of the award, the Challenge winners may be honored at an NIJ event in Washington, DC. It also is anticipated that the winner may be invited to attend one or more professional association meetings to be recognized for their contribution to the improvement of criminal justice operations.

Prize Disbursement and Requirements

Prize winners must comport with all applicable laws and regulations regarding prize receipt and disbursement.

Rights Retained by Contestants and Challenge Winner

(a)  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 source code.

(b)  Upon acceptance of any Challenge prizes, the winning contestants 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.

Contact Information

Substantive Questions Regarding This Challenge

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

Technical Questions Regarding the Application Process

First read through How to Enter (Section I); if you still have questions, contact the OJP Grants Management System (GMS) Help Desk — open Monday through Friday from 6:00 a.m. to midnight eastern time, except federal holidays — at 1-888-549-9901.

Additional Information

Additional information regarding this topic will be available through various web sites, including (but not limited to) the following:

Date Created: November 5, 2013