Newswise — WASHINGTON – While upholding and safeguarding the nation’s maritime interests across eleven distinct mission areas, United States Coast Guard (USCG) personnel often interact with non-English speakers, making it challenging to quickly assess and respond to a variety of situations. To better equip USCG personnel, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP), in partnership with USCG, awarded $185,665 in Phase 1 funding to TranslateLive, LLC, of Clearwater, FL, to adapt its Instant Language Assistant (ILA) capabilities under SVIP’s Language Translator solicitation.
In support of USCG missions, the Language Translator solicitation seeks capabilities that facilitate communication in real time with non-English speakers and those who are unable to communicate verbally. The solicitation also requires devices to be able to operate in both connected and offline capacities. While performing a variety of rescue and investigation missions, USCG operators must be able to communicate with vessel occupants–many who are non-English speakers. Accurate and swift translation of information are critical to the safety and security of USCG boarding teams and vessel occupants. Offline capability is necessary because many USCG interactions take place in extreme environmental conditions and locations without cell service or internet connections.
“DHS S&T SVIP has introduced the Coast Guard to innovative small businesses, such as TranslateLive, that can rapidly develop tools to enhance USCG operator safety and mission performance. We are looking forward to seeing how TranslateLive will adapt their existing translation technology to meet Coast Guard needs,” said Wendy Chaves, chief of Coast Guard Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, and Innovation.
TranslateLive proposes enhancing their award-winning ILA product, which enables any two people to instantly engage in real-time simultaneous speech-to-speech and speech-to-text conversations in more than 120 different languages and accents. This Phase 1 funding will support adaptations required to fulfill USCG mission requirements, such as having full offline capability and auto language detection in a hand-held, waterproof, and floatable device.
“It’s been inspiring to see what is already available in the marketplace that can be adapted to fit DHS mission needs,” said Melissa Oh, SVIP managing director. “TranslateLive’s baseline capability to translate 120 different languages is an exciting starting point for this project.”
The Language Translator solicitation is open through 12:00 p.m. PST on February 20, 2021. Applications will be accepted on a continuous, rolling basis, and SVIP will evaluate applications three times on a quarterly basis. The next application deadlines are October 20, 2020, and February 20, 2021.
SVIP is one of the programs and tools available for S&T to fund private sector innovation and engage with commercial partners to advance homeland security solutions. Companies participating in SVIP are eligible for up to $800,000 of non-dilutive funding over four phases to develop and adapt commercial technologies for homeland security use cases.
For more information about S&T’s innovation programs and tools, visit https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/business-opportunities.