On March 11, innovators joined our informational webinar to learn about the Challenge and the types of solutions DHS is seeking. For those who were unable to tune in or would like to watch the webinar again, please see the video recording available below. The webinar concluded with a live Q&A session — read the summary of questions asked by attendees.  

See the video transcript and download the presentation.

The supply side of the opioid crisis and the vision for the Challenge

We were joined by Dr. Rosanna Robertson, program lead from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate; Mr. Ari Schuler, Director for the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Innovation Team; and Challenge judges Ms. Stephanie Smith, Scientific & Technical Advisor for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and Mr. Manuel Garza, Director for the Manifest & Conveyance Security Division, CBP. They provided an in-depth overview of the Challenge, answered questions, and shared the U.S. government’s vision for tapping into novel and new technologies for disrupting the flow of opioids through the international mail.

Mr. Garza kicked off the webinar with an introduction to the challenges of detecting opioids in a complex international mail system:

“Every single day CBP is processing in excess of 1.4 million small shipments. I don’t have enough officers [and K-9’s] in the field to look at 1.4 million shipments. We are looking for something new and innovative that can help CBP with these issues. We are finding [fentanyl] as small as less than 1 gram in some packages and in excess of 1 kilo in others.”

Dr. Rosanna Robertson discussed the potency of opioids, the opioids Challenge entrants should target, and the various forms opioids can come in:

“Because of its potency, fentanyl and its analogues present the greatest danger, as well as the greatest challenge, from an enforcement perspective…we need a technology that can focus on small quantities as well as large. It is important that you consider that it’s not just pills and powders, but that it could come in other form factors that might influence how you detect it.”

What you missed during the Q&A

At the end of the webinar, attendees asked the panel questions during a Q&A session. A summary of the top questions are below; see more in the Frequently Asked Questions.

What types of solutions can be submitted?
Solutions must have a detection component, which may be based on chemical detection, data analysis or another anomaly detection method that identifies parcels containing opioids. Please see About the Challenge for more information on requirements.

Can I submit a purely data-driven solution?
Yes. A submission is required to include an approach to anomaly detection, but this can be accomplished in many forms, including through a data solution. A data solution does not need to develop new hardware technology and may be paired with existing hardware technology, so long as it addresses how it will detect anomalies and can successfully identify packages with opioids.

Must submissions include data, AI, or machine learning?
No, solutions are not required to be data-driven. All eligible solutions that detect parcels containing opioids will be considered.  

What types of compounds do solutions need to be able to detect?
Solutions need to be able to detect parcels containing fentanyl and analogous compounds. The ability to detect other opioids and narcotics will be judged favorably. Solutions which can be rapidly adapted to future threats – such as different synthetic narcotics will also be judged favorably.

Who owns the IP?
Entrants retain full ownership of their submissions. The government reserves the right to enter into good faith negotiations for license rights associated with the submission. For more information, please refer to the Rules, Terms, and Conditions.

As a reminder, submissions are due by 4:59PM ET, Wednesday, April 24, 2019. If you have any further questions, please contact us at hello@opioiddetectionchallenge.com.

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