Wearables for dogs: It might sound like a throwaway gag on HBO's Silicon Valley, but the Department of Homeland Security says they're crucial to keeping the nation's borders secure, and it hopes entrepreneurs will step up to provide the necessary technologies. For those that do, there's a possibility of up to $800,000 in funding.
In a very serious email sent out Thursday morning, DHS announced its request for canine wearables as part of the federal department's Silicon Valley Innovation Program, an initiative launched late last year to tap into the latest tech coming out of early stage startups in the Bay Area.
This call for canine wearables has nothing to do with squeaky toys or fitness-tracking leashes. The need for this tech is coming specifically from Customs and Border Protection, which uses dogs to work border checkpoints, sniffing for any agricultural goods and drugs that are not supposed to come into the U.S. CBP has about 1,400 canine teams scattered around the U.S.'s borders performing this duty.
CBP agents are trained to ensure that their furry partners do not tire themselves out, but officers have no way to know the specifics of their canine's vitals, which can make it difficult for them to determine when their four-legged counterparts needs a rest or medical attention. Wearable technology could assist CBP in preventing injuries to canine officers by providing exact details on their health status. This tech could be especially important for canine units operating in the scorching heat of the U.S.'s southwestern border with Mexico.
"Wearable technologies to diagnose illness and measure individual performance have become commonplace for human wearers or users," DHS said in a statement to entrepreneurs. "This solicitation seeks to determine if the lessons learned from human wearable technologies, or some aspects of the technologies themselves, may be adapted for canine use within the CBP and DHS canine training environment."
CBP is seeking tech capable of recording and analyzing a dog's vitals and then transmitting that data to an officer's device. CBP needs tech that can detect these important data points through canine's fur and without affecting a dog's performance or irritating their bodies.
DHS is set to hold a startup day in Menlo Park on Wednesday that is open to entrepreneurs who are interested in learning more about the call for canine wearables and the Silicon Valley Innovation Program.
Through this initiative, DHS is able to award government contracts of up to $800,000 to startups that deliver a successful pitch. And unlike with traditional government contracts, which can take nine to 12 months to process, DHS promises to award contracts to startups within timeframes of 30 days. Already, DHS has awarded funding to four startups through the program, the department told Inc. on Thursday.