The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) office has awarded Pulzze Systems, Inc. $200,000 to demonstrate a prototype in six months of a system that can detect devices on a network, helping to improve network visibility.

Pulzze, which is based in Silicon Valley, will be adapting technology it has developed for commercial applications to try and meet needs of DHS and critical infrastructure providers. By detecting and authenticating devices on a network, administrators can know whether a device belongs there, Melissa Ho, managing director of S&T’s Silicon Valley Office, tells HSR.

“They are a company that has already been working in IoT security,” Ho says. “They are already working on a solution to do detecting of devices. The challenge that we’ve seen is that with IoT there’s so many different protocols and it continues to just grow that there has to be a way to scale the ability to detect devices,” she says, adding that Pulzze’s solution is scalable.

Ho also says that S&T believes that Pulzze’s solution will also help address legacy devices that aren’t IoT.

The award is the first under S&T’s new effort to draw innovative startup companies into the homeland security market and was made under the Innovation Other Transaction Solicitation (OTS). The company responded to S&T’s call issued in December for solutions than can detect, authenticate and do secure updates of devices on the Internet of Things (IoT).

“DHS S&T opened a Silicon Valley Office to bridge the gap between the department and the creative thinkers in Silicon Valley,” says Dr. Reginald Brothers, under secretary for S&T at DHS. “The first innovation OTS award proves DHS can keep pace with the innovation community and is moving in the right direction to become a viable partner.”

Once the six months are Pulzze will be required to demonstrate their solution. “It doesn’t have to be pretty,” Ho says, “just a demo.”

Phase II of the “innovation framework” calls for a pilot-ready prototype demo, Phase III would involve pilot testing in an operational environment, and Phase IV operational test and evaluation in user scenarios. Each phase is worth between $50,000 and $200,000 and will last between three to six months each.

“Our goal is that through the pilot phase, through Phase III and Phase IV, we’re working with operational components and critical infrastructure providers [and] we’re hoping to be able to use the demonstration of the technology as some form of justification so that they can purchase it after,” Ho says. She says the program aims to avoid the “valley of death” that exists between research and acquisition.

In particular for the DHS operational components, the DHS Silicon Valley program expects to be able to help streamline the acquisition processes for them, which will help technologies more easily transition from research to acquisition, Ho says.

With its new Innovation OTS, DHS S&T is touting the speed and flexibility with which it can reach non-traditional and start-up innovators to provide seed money quickly to adapt technologies for homeland security needs. The IoT Security Call was published on Dec. 10, 2015 and the award was sent to Pulzze on Feb. 10 for review and acceptance. The award was officially signed on Feb. 12.

Ho thinks that the next call for offers could be this summer and won’t necessarily be for a specific technical area like the IoT-related call in December. She says that S&T is working with DHS operational components on solutions to meet their mission needs.

The startup community has told the SVO that “’we don’t know what DHS does so we don’t know what you need.’ And so this is us trying to say, ‘Hey look, this is what we do. This is what we need.’”