The market for AI (artificial intelligence) technologies is going to expand tremendously in the next decade. Grand View Research says the global AI market will reach $733.7 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 42.2%. One of the many sectors that will increasingly look to leverage AI technologies between now and 2027 (and beyond) is first response. In fact, in some cases, the first-response industry is already engaged in piloting AI technologies for use on the front lines. What AI-related innovations are to come, and how will they make first responders’ jobs easier?

In 2018, the DHS (Dept. of Homeland Security) S&T (Science and Technology Directorate)’s Next Generation First Responder Apex program announced it had partnered with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop AUDREY (Assistant for Understanding Data through Reasoning, Extraction, and Synthesis) technology. AUDREY leverages AI to help first responders synthesize high-level data in their moments of need—at the scene of an emergency. An early pilot at the Multi Agency Communications Center in Grant County, Wash., took place in fall 2017 and was followed by another pilot in 2019 in conjunction with Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services in Ont., Canada.

AUDREY technology aims to help responders understand a large amount of potentially life-saving information quickly. It leverages neural symbolic processing to think like a human and recognize first-responder-specific language, ultimately providing situational awareness during an incident and connecting first responders across different agencies with critical data in critical moments. In doing so, the AI helps first responders make faster, better decisions that could not only keep first responders themselves safer while reacting to an emergency but also potentially save the lives of those in peril.

The latest pilot focuses on AUDREY’s benefit to paramedics in the field, who often get waylaid waiting for physician advice on treatment while they’re in the field. The innovative AI solution supports paramedics in making decisions in the field and in relaying key information to hospitals seamlessly, ultimately supporting the best patient outcomes possible.

David Ebert, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of VACCINE at Purdue University, and a team created another AI-powered solution designed to help first responders synthesize information—this time from social media. Purdue’s SMART (Social Media Analytics and Reporting Toolkit) AI program analyzes public geo-tagged tweets and Instagram posts in realtime, organizes them by topic, and creates an “interactive visual analysis and decisionmaking environment.”

The reality of first response in today’s world is that people turn to social media to seek help, share stories in realtime, and, in general, provide information about what they’re experiencing or witnessing during emergency situations. This type of information can be extremely valuable to first responders, but it can also be overwhelming. SMART creates “word clouds” on maps that are updated every few seconds to show what people are posting during crisis situations. First responders can search via keyword or topic to filter data efficiently. AI and machine learning filter out posts that use keywords in non-relevant contexts, so the results are as helpful as possible. In doing so, the SMART solution does a lot of the heavy lifting automatically, leaving responders free to then react to the provided information and do their jobs by responding.

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