How sports data can help public safety agencies up their game
Technology originally developed for athletes can help public safety agencies to track first responders’ performance during training to sharpen real-life mission efficiency.
Athletes are no strangers to wearing sensors that track their movement to enhance performance. Data can show how quickly basketball players can accelerate down the court or how their position affects whether they can sink a 3-pointer, information that can shape effective training programs and ultimately bring home a victory.
“It’s changed the look of the NBA [and] it’s changed the way people play soccer … and hockey,” MITRE Senior Scientist Anthony Santago said. “What can this tell us about first responder performance that nobody’s ever really thought of before?”
Over the last five years, Santago has led a team of MITRE researchers to leverage advanced analytics commonly seen in sports to improve the physical performance of public safety workers during training and real-life missions.
“We assumed that data would be available, and what we actually found is that there’s no data infrastructure that exists in federal, state or local government that would allow the collection … and storage of this data to run the analytics,” he said.
To fill the gap, MITRE researchers developed the Squad Performance Optimization Using Real-Time Sensing—or SPORTS—system that can collect and analyze movement and biometric data on law enforcement personnel or first responders during a training session.
The system features sensors that track trainees’ locations via radio frequency identification tags they wear, Santago said. Video cameras and biometric sensors that monitor physical conditions such as heart rate can be integrated and time-synchronized with the SPORTS’ system for further insights. For instance, police officers dealing with a combatant may shoot with less accuracy if they move toward the target too quickly or fail to position themselves in a proper firing stance, he said.
“That’s where these intricate movements can really come into play,” Santago said. For example, police officers must maximize how quickly they can reach a target while also minimizing their exposure. Using SPORTS data, instructors can determine ideal team formations and even individual postures to optimize mission efficiency, he said.
Supervisors can view the mapping and video data in real-time on connected devices such as tablets or interactive TVs. Instead of trying to remember what staff did during a training session, agencies can refer to the training data to review what happened, said Brian Colder, a MITRE software engineer and co-principal investigator. The data is also collected and stored within MITRE’s network for agencies’ secure use over time.
Just like sports organizations, “law enforcement and first responders have teams of people that need to coordinate their movements to address a particular kind of challenge, whether that’s clearing a room, fighting a fire or dealing with a casualty situation,” Santago said. “We’ve been working to develop technology and analytics that can quantitatively describe how our government operators are working.”
In the future, SPORTS could include technology to evaluate first responders’ marksmanship, Colder said. Other potential developments include using SPORTS data to design virtual reality-enabled simulations to reduce training time.
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