Inside INdiana Business

IUPUI team wins $112K for voice-controlled tech

pictured L to R: Carmel police officers James Semester and James Grose with IUPUI's Mayur Srivastava, Bhavani Prasad Rao Ejanthkar, Swarnamouli Majumdar, Lou Lenzi and Aamir Khan. I Ting Tseng is not pictured. (photo courtesy of Swarnamouli Majumdar)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – A team of IUPUI graduates has received a total of more than $112,000 from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology for developing artificial intelligence technology that helps improve the safety and efficiency of police officer work. The grants were awarded through the organization’s Tech to Protect Challenge.

The competition recognizes students and alumni for the development of technology to help solve public safety communications challenges faced by fire, law enforcement and emergency medical service responders. IUPUI says the grants recognize the team’s development of Zenext, a voice-command virtual assistant that helps law enforcement conduct critical tasks hands-free.

“This work contributes to the growing need for crisis-response technology,” said Sonny Kirkley, adjunct assistant professor in the School of Informatics and Computing. “As technologies like artificial intelligence and voice automation mature, it’s important to tailor their capabilities to specific tasks and professions.

IUPUI says Zenext was one of only 25 finalists selected to advance to the national award competition that took place May 1.

Zenext uses voice technology to improve communications between police officers and dispatchers. Kirkley says the technology also provides connectivity to important emergency agencies like fire departments and EMS. The team says the technology can automate the process of entering the same information into multiple forms, allowing police officers to quickly share critical information using hands-free email or radio communications, which is not possible with current equipment.

Members of the IUPUI Zenext team include: Bhavani Prasad Rao Ejanthkar, Aamir Khan, Swarnamouli Majumdar, Mayur Srivastava and I Ting “Tiffany” Tseng. The team’s faculty mentor is Lou Lenzi, a professor of practice in the School of Computing and Informatics.

IUPUI says the team worked with the Carmel Police Department throughout the development process.

As winners in the national contest, the team is eligible to compete for another $70,000 in November. Over the next six months, IUPUI says the team aims to advance their prototype to the beta test stage, including working with a hardware manufacturer to integrate voice-command software and cloud technology into a custom device. The team plans to have the Carmel Police Department employ the technology in field tests.

“NIST wants real solutions to real problems and is willing to provide the entrepreneurial funds required to create real products, thereby contributing to the Indiana economy,” said Kirkley. “Beyond funding, I think the greatest value of this competition was the opportunity to develop some real-world solutions to critical issues in public safety.”

The competition is sponsored by the institute’s Public Safety Communications Research Division.