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2 Vendors Picked in State's First RFI2 Procurement

The companies' proofs of concept will be implemented as pilots in four counties and, if successful, could be expanded. The awards total just under $2 million for contracts that run through Dec. 31.

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The state said Wednesday that it has awarded the first two contracts under its RFI2 program, an innovation that Gov. Gavin Newsom implemented as a means of streamlining the IT procurement process.

On Newsom’s first day as governor, Jan. 8, he implemented the “Request for Innovative Ideas” (RFI2) protocol, in which vendors play a bigger role in devising and proposing solutions, rather than responding to specific instructions from state officials.

California’s wildfire crises last year and this year prompted the Governor’s Office to designate the “Wildfire Innovation Sprint” as the first IT program to be administered under RFI2. Wednesday’s announcement of the two contract awards marks a milestone in the effort. The first two awardees, according to the announcement, are:

  • Technosylva, a company with headquarters in San Diego and Spain, will receive $383,000 to develop a proof-of-concept product that uses a cloud-based subscription service to help jurisdictions predict the path of wildfire. This pilot will be used in four counties — Butte, Monterey, Napa and San Luis Obispo — with oversight locations in Redding and Riverside. Technosylva uses technologies including GIS to assess topography, vegetation and weather forecasts to anticipate the path of a wildfire, which would enable authorities to issue updates, emergency notifications and evacuation orders.
  • Northrop Grumman, which will receive $1.6 million for a proof-of-concept product that uses aerial sensors as part of an early-detection system that can directly interface with computer-aided dispatch systems, the goal being to reduce the time it takes for first responders to be alerted.
Both contracts run through Dec. 31, at which point California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) will decide whether the projects will be expanded statewide. The governor’s stated goal is to get advanced technology into the field and in use by next fire season.

“This new procurement process leverages one of the things California does best, which is embracing innovation and technology to address some of the most unprecedented challenges California is facing,” Newsom said as part of Wednesday’s contract announcement. “The use of innovative and groundbreaking technology to bolster response to wildfires will help our firefighters and first responders tremendously, and if we can predict the patterns of a fire, we will be able to save lives and property.”

In all, 131 proposals were submitted as part of the first RFI2 solicitation. What makes RFI2 unique is that the state outlines a problem to be solved — in this case, detecting wildfires more quickly – rather than deciding on a solution and asking vendors for bids.

In the Wildfire Innovation Sprint, Cal Fire, the California Department of Technology (CDT) and the Department of General Services (DGS) “collaborated with experts and government leaders to develop a problem statement to address wildfire management, focusing on detection, prediction and notification,” the Governor’s Office explained in its news release. In addition to Technosylva and Northrop Grumman, 10 other applicants from the pool of 131 were chosen “to become part of an innovator pool for future consideration.”

Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.