DHS looks to lure startups into the government game

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What: DHS's Science and Technology directorate issued a new solicitation designed to attract firms that haven't participated in government contracting to work on security solutions for the Internet of Things ecosystem.

Why: The Other Transaction Solicitation is designed to give DHS the flexibility to offer opportunities to tech startups to develop innovations to meet growing security needs in areas. In addition to the Internet of Things, the OTS will include awards in aviation security, border security, cyber, counterterrorism and more. The idea is to use "other transaction" contracting methods to obviate the slow, requirement-driven procurement process.

The OTS funds work for three-to-six month development periods, with short-term awards tied to additional add-on development and funding. The framework, S&T officials said, is a streamlined applications process with fast track selection timelines, faster payment and quick feedback.

Essentially, DHS is looking to make awards in the fashion of a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, based on evaluation of individual pitches made in person or via teleconference.

"IoT security is an important topic for us," said Melissa Ho, managing director of DHS S&T's Silicon Valley Office, in an interview with FCW. With a coming wave of IoT devices and connectivity on the horizon, she said, "we need to get ahead of this."

The IoT OTS is the first example of what Ho said is a new way to get advanced tech to areas where it's need in DHS. She said the next OTS effort would be with the Secret Service, which would offer up some technical areas it needs to develop. That solicitation should come in March, she said.

In the IoT OTS, DHS said it was looking to help its IT and critical infrastructure managers get a comprehensive and near-continuous assessment of IoT systems that affect critical operations and assets. The initial technical areas being explored include detecting IOT components and connections, authenticating components and updating  IoT components.

New technologies that could be developed with those capabilities could include a mobile or portable device that could be deployed at a port, airport or other secure location to quickly detect and report on all the IoT components connected there.

Another might include a centralized detection platform that could be centrally deployed on a controller of node of an IoT system that could report on all the components on the system.

Click here to read the full solicitation.

Posted by Mark Rockwell on Dec 15, 2015 at 12:12 PM


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