Biothreats — harmful pathogens that are either naturally or deliberately released — pose a risk to national security and public health, and identifying new detection methods is a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T).
Biothreats are hard to immediately identify, but with new technologies and data sources, such as the wealth of open data generated by “smarter” cities, emergency managers may be able to detect and respond to an emerging problem more quickly.
DHS S&T knew it would need to go beyond its four walls to explore this opportunity space. In October, S&T collaborated with the Office of Health Affairs National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC) to launch the Hidden Signals Challenge. The $300,000 prize competition called for the design of an early warning system to keep our communities safe by using existing data sources to uncover emerging biothreats.