Recently, we took M908™ on the road to meet with First Responder professionals at two leading industry events: Hotzone and CBRNE Convergence. These events always provide great opportunities for us to get a pulse on this rapidly changing industry, and the chance to engage with customers about the current state of the mission.

Face Time with First Responders

Hazmat responders from state and local agencies heavily attend Hotzone, a 20-year-old, Houston-based tradition. Due to its location in a major metropolitan area, we get to hear about emerging challenges at a-hyper local level. For example, in-the-field detection and identification of hazardous chemicals are a regular topic of conversation amongst attendees, and classes are offered throughout the course of the event on various methods.

CBRNE Convergence is a whole different beast. The group we engaged with here was much broader – we talked with everyone from the Boise Fire Department to the Paris police, the Turkish Navy and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Face time with this array of customers at the state, local and federal levels allowed us to hear about new threats responders are preparing to face in the field – whether it’s an incident in downtown Houston or in hostile territory overseas. At CBRNE Convergence, customers had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with our team, including our CTO, Dr. Christopher Brown. It was during these meetings that customers really opened up to us about the challenges they are encountering. While we can’t give away too much just yet, we walked away with a new perspective about the types of threats responders encounter, and the lack of adequate technologies available to help combat them.  This is something our R&D team is taking into consideration as we continue to ramp up developments and work to bring new products to market.

Similarly, Hotzone attendees had the chance to share their stories while earning training and continuing education credit through a hands-on, deep-dive workshop as provided by our Director of Technical Service, Dr. Mark Norman. This workshop is designed to introduce the capabilities of our patented and award winning high-pressure mass spectrometry™ (HPMS) and demonstrate how M908 can be integrated into existing toolkits field detection and identification of high priority chemical threats.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better – In More Ways Than One

Portability has been a trend in the S&S industry for years now, but at these two shows, we talked with customers about a “bigger” trend – pun intended.

At CBRNE Convergence, many people approached us with the question “How big is your library?” With more than six million chemicals existing today, it seems like more and more vendors are offering devices that claim capability to identify everything and anything.

We recognize that there are hundreds of thousands of chemicals that our responders could encounter, however, our library is more targeted compared to some.  Unlike other tools, our HPMS technology is selective and sensitive enough to identify high priority threats and substances, at trace levels, making M908 an instrumental part of the first responder toolkit. The library may be targeted, but it sure is mighty.

In Houston, the “bigger” conversation focused around budgets. After 9/11, state and local level budgets were restricted and remain under scrutiny.  Previously, directors had the benefit of buying all of the tools on their wish list, but today, many are forced to make a hard choices about what to invest in.

In response, some are opting for one piece of equipment that appears to “do it all”.  While there are chemical detection tools that may make this claim, each has its strengths and also limitations.   For example, some handheld devices have the capability to identify thousands of unknown substances, but only when bulk quantities are present (you have to see it to ID it). Other ‘man-portable’ instruments may claim to offer broad chemical identification coverage but they are large, only operable by the ‘science guy’ on the squad, require lots of ‘care and feeding,’ and priced at well over $100,000, are not very cost effective.

At Hotzone, we met with an attendee preparing to purchase a new CBRNE detection technology. Contending with a shrinking budget he was struggling with the numbers to afford his technology of choice. Imagine his surprise when we informed him that, for the price he was budgeting, he could purchase not one, but two M908 devices – a purchase that would allow Hazmat detection and identification capability that his entire team could use.

With M908, first responders can reduce acquisition costs as well as those associated with maintenance and cost of ownership. In addition, M908 can identify priority threats at trace levels, and is easy-to-operate, meaning anyone can use it after only a few hours of training.

More to Come

We’ve gained powerful insights from these events that will enable us to continue to enhance our product development efforts for the First Responder community. The range of threats plaguing the industry show no signs of slowing down, prompting an even greater need for tools that give first responders the best detection and identification capability. In 2017, we’re excited to bring our customers a greater expansion of capabilities and applications with next gen technology directly aimed at emerging threats.

Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for more details in the weeks to come.