Join DHS $300K Hidden Signals Biothreat Challenge Webinar Nov 1

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), a Finalist in the 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Award Program, launched the Hidden Signals Challenge today, a $300,000 prize competition that seeks concepts for novel uses of existing data to uncover emerging biothreats.

Join the DHS S&T Hidden Signals Prize Challenge informational webinar on November 1, 2017, at 2:00 PM ET.

Hidden Signals ChallengeDuring the webinar, DHS will give an in-depth overview of the Challenge, cover what happens in Stage 1 & Stage 2 of the challenge, and conduct a live Q&A. RSVP here.

Biothreats are everyone’s concern

Whether you’re a private citizen, a city administrator, or a government official, we all share a common interest in keeping our communities healthy and safe.

Biothreats occur when harmful pathogens are either naturally or deliberately released, posing a risk to national security and public health.

Some of these pathogens can be transmitted from person to person, from inhalation or ingestion; and from exposure to powders, liquids, or aerosols.

Infections caused by biothreats can lead to respiratory distress, gastrointestinal issues, and animal and human deaths.

Often, biothreats are hard to immediately identify, and their spread can be hard to contain.

William N. Bryan, DHS Under Secretary (Acting) for Science and Technology
William N. Bryan, DHS Under Secretary (Acting) for Science and Technology

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 our cities and communities.

“This Challenge is one of the many ways S&T is working to keep our communities safe,” said DHS Under Secretary (Acting) for Science and Technology, William N. Bryan.

“The technologies and data sources available today present an unprecedented opportunity. By harnessing new streams of information, we may ultimately identify and resolve an emerging threat faster.”

Currently, there are a variety of systems and tools in place to identify biothreats, however they rely largely on health data, which presents challenges for real-time alerts and early detection.

This Challenge aims to harness new technologies and data sources to identify an emerging problem quickly and confidently, 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.

DHS intends for this work to be the first step in the design of a local and/or national system that could enable city-level operators to make critical and proactive decisions based on the most relevant and actionable insights.

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.

Stage 1

  • Following the open submissions period, up to five (5) Finalists will be selected by the judges according to official Challenge criteria and will be awarded $20,000 in cash prizes each.

Stage 2 (Discretionary)

  • At the discretion of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Challenge Finalists from the first stage of the Challenge (Stage 1) may be invited to participate in a second phase (Stage 2) for the chance to compete for an additional $200,000 in cash prizes.
  • During Stage 2, Finalists from Stage 1 will have the opportunity to further develop concepts into detailed system designs with guidance from expert mentors.
  • At the end of Stage 2, Finalists will be required to submit these detailed system designs, which will describe how concepts from Stage 1 are to be implemented in practice.

Sample scenarios

  • You will find a few sample scenarios below that help bring to life what these threats may look like in practice.
  • Keep in mind that submissions can address a wide range of threats, symptoms, and signals, and are not limited to the scenarios detailed here.
  • To learn more about some of the most urgent threats our cities and communities face today, click here.

Scenario 1

  • It’s 6:30pm on Thursday in New York City, and a subway train is experiencing significant delays due to multiple holds for the removal of sick passengers.
  • All sick passengers have been exhibiting some form of acute respiratory distress, and a few have fainted.
  • Thousands of commuters ride this train daily to and from work; upon reviewing video surveillance from stations along the train line, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) operators have anecdotally noted a lot of people coughing and sneezing from Monday to Thursday.
  • Is this a coincidence?
  • How can data help us investigate this event further?
  • How might the city have noticed this sooner?

Scenario 2

  • Over the course of five days in May, many residents of Atlanta and the neighboring suburbs have been absent from work, citing fever, nausea, and gastrointestinal issues.
  • While this initially went unnoticed, a few cases of septicemia within this short period of time have begun to draw attention.
  • Of the instances reported, almost all victims had traveled through the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport within the past few days.
  • What other fragments of information might we want to integrate to get a clearer picture and determine whether or not to take action?

Scenario 3

Lake Pontchartrain

  • Over the span of a week, Animal Control in New Orleans, Louisiana, has noticed a steady uptick in dead waterfowl.
  • There are also dead fish turning up along the coast of Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne.
  • Upon closer examination of these birds and fish, field workers report similar signs of paralysis, and the early hypothesis is an outbreak of botulism.
  • How could we use data to connect the dots to track the spread among animals?
  • How might we monitor for signs of a spread to humans?

Those interested in participating in the Challenge should submit their concept by 4:59 PM ET, Monday, December 4, 2017.

The judges, who are experts in areas such as biomedical informatics, biological defense, and emergency management, will evaluate the submissions and select up to five Finalists to advance to Stage 2.

DHS S&TFinalists will be awarded $20,000 in seed money in Stage 1 to further develop concepts into detailed system designs in Stage 2.

For more information about the Hidden Signals Challenge, visit

DHS Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) a Finalist in the 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program

The 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program, is organized to recognize the most distinguished vendors of Physical, IT, Port Security, Law Enforcement, First Responders, (Fire, EMT, Military, Support Services Vets, SBA, Medical Tech) as well as the Federal, State, County and Municipal Government Agencies – to acknowledge their outstanding efforts to ‘Keep our Nation Secure, One City at a Time.’

As an ‘ASTORS’ competitor, DHS S&T is competing against the industry’s leading providers of Innovative Critical Infrastructure Protection Solutions.

American Security Today will be holding the 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Presentation Luncheon at 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m, Wednesday, November 15th at ISC East, the Northeast’s largest security industry event, in the Jacob Javits Exhibition Center in New York City.

At ISC East you will have the chance to meet with technical reps from over 225 leading brands in the security industry, allowing you to find out about new products and stay ahead of the competition.

Encompassing everything from Video Surveillance and Access Control to Smart Home Technologies and Unmanned Security, you’re sure to find products and services that will benefit your company and clients.

To register for the ‘ASTORS’ Awards Presentation Luncheon at ISC East, in the Jacob Javits Exhibition Center from 12:00pm – 2:00pm, click on the banner below, or go to

Good luck to DHS S&T on becoming a Winner of the 2017 American Security Today’s Homeland Security Awards Program!

Click here to learn more

Also please visit the New DHS S&T Mobilizing Innovation website at