image of dog sniffing baggage (Customs and Border Protection)

Health monitoring for K9 workers

The Department of Homeland Security has awarded a contract for  wearable, personalized health-monitoring technologies for dogs working with Customs and Border Protection.

The $198,000 award from the Science & Technology Directorate went to PetPace LLC for its sensor technology. The firm markets a health-sensing collar and provides a health-monitoring service based on the data received from the collar, including health dashboards and alert services.

CBP has one of the largest, most diverse canine programs in the country, with 1,500 human/canine teams performing border, port and foreign preclearance security duties; drug interdiction; and human, firearm and currency smuggling detection. The high-pressure, fast-paced, physically demanding work in varied climates can cause health problems that, if not identified and addressed quickly, may lead to severe illness, injury or death of dogs that have undergone extensive training.

The devices and technologies being tested under K-9 Wearable Technologies program face not only technical hurdles, but also some unusual environmental issues rarely observed in human IT environments.

"Devices that are attached to canines for prolonged periods have been consumed, chewed on, or otherwise destroyed by canines when not under direct supervision," the solicitation warned.

It also said dogs wearing the devices can operate out of range of their handlers, requiring the devices to store data until it can be uploaded to a handler's device. Battery life can also be an issue for candidate devices and systems, said the solicitation, given that dogs can work long or multiple shifts in rapid succession.

PetPace is being asked to demonstrate existing technology to track vital signs and physiological data and how that data can be operationalized for CBP canine teams. Other aspects of the K9 wearables solicitation are open through June 7.

The K9 wearable project is one of five opened under the DHS procurement innovation plan. Others cover cyber defense for financial services systems, drone capabilities, airport passenger processing and improving the Global Travel Assessments System. All are set to close this spring or in early summer.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sister site to GCN.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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