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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has recently launched the Hidden Signals Challenge, a $300,000 prize competition seeking concepts for uses of existing data to uncover emerging biothreats. The Challenge calls upon data innovators from a wide variety of fields to develop concepts that will identify signals and achieve timelier alerts for biothreats in cities and communities.

Biothreats occur when harmful pathogens are either naturally or deliberately released, posing a risk to national security and public health. Often, biothreats are hard to immediately identify, and their spread can be hard to contain.

This Challenge aims to harness new technologies and data sources to identify emerging problems with more speed and confidence, so cities can ultimately resolve it faster. Successful concepts will explore connections between multiple readily-accessible data sources to develop real-time insights that can improve public safety responses to emerging biothreats.

Warnings will ideally point to signals that emerge zero-to ten-days from the first instances of exposure, using timely data sets that become available less than 36 hours after inputs are received. The Challenge focuses on large metropolitan areas such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C., as the basis for a proof of concept, but is open to solutions that address all geographic locations.

“This Challenge is one of the many ways S&T is working to keep our communities safe,” DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology, William N. Bryan, told newswise.com. “The technologies and data sources available today present an unprecedented opportunity. Harnessing new streams of information will enable us to ultimately identify and resolve an emerging threat faster.”