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Systems Integration Comes to Gunshot Detection

Gunshot Detection Image by OpenClipart-Vectors, Rick pending, Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors, Rick pending, Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Gunshot detection technology designed to prevent and minimize the growing crisis of active shooter events in the United States is becoming more reliable, sophisticated and integrated with other security technologies in a turnkey solution.

From festivals to campuses to retail locations, no venue or area is spared from the possibility of a shooting incident. In July 2019 alone there were 49 killed and 219 wounded according to Mass Shooting Tracker. Defined by the FBI, an active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area; a mass shooting is when three or more people are killed indiscriminately not including the perpetrator.

The hardware and software technology to detect gunshots through sound or acoustic signatures continues to make great strides since its early inception and military use in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many platforms now leverage Google maps geo-location services powered by the Google API. (Gunshot detection technology was first developed by U.S. defense contractor and industrial technology company Raytheon.) It has been refined to provide early and proactive notification, as well as the ability to integrate with access control, perform lockdowns, activate livestream video surveillance and pinpoint shooter locations and weapons accurately—resulting in quicker response times and better outcomes.

Battery life for wireless sensors now spans years and can accurately identify the weapon by caliber. Location-based systems integrate with on-site surveillance, so operators can click on the camera and pull up a stream or IP address to determine if it’s an automatic weapon—alerting responding authorities to the potential extent of the threat. Systems have a sophisticated level of integration that automatically perform lockdown by area or building while communicating the shooter's precise location.

Wireless expands system reach

Emergency Automatic Gunshot Lockdown (EAGL) technology was established in 2015 after acquiring gunshot ballistic science developed by the Department of Energy (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Since then, the company has commercialized and released a state-of-the-art security system, which integrates with existing access control, video surveillance, intercom and public-address systems. In some cities, the system can integrate with license plate recognition.

The wireless acoustic gunshot detection system integrates with the building security system and is less expensive and labor-intensive to deploy versus a hardwired solution, said Jennifer Russell, senior vice president, EAGL Technology LLC, Albuquerque, N.M. EAGL leverages acoustic signature matching—waiting for a mathematically quantified energy level/wave form to occur from the discharge of a firearm. Sensors are programmed with specific scenarios to control lighting, for example, to provide a safe pathway to egress or initiate strobes or digital displays—and everything happens within seconds.

“It’s seamless, true-blue integration,” Russell said. “Sensors are passive, and when the energy level is detected, they initiate lockdown, call 911 or start another series of responses. EAGL creates a higher level of situational awareness almost simultaneously—eliminating time lags. It’s based on open architecture and an open API and plays well with other systems, with software development kits available to integrate with access control.”

EAGL’s gunshot sensors are indoor or outdoor devices. The system can be programmed to automatically trigger events or responses, such as sending authorities text messages, emails and phone calls of the active shooter threat with a map of the building, location of the shooter and ballistic data on the weapon. It automatically livestreams video from the building to security and law enforcement to help identify and track the shooter and activates public address and mass notification systems.

Johnson Controls states its new Detect360 Active Shooter Response (ASR) system gives occupants time to find safety and enables police and security personnel to mitigate threats up to 60 percent faster.

“Having a system that provides early and accurate gunshot detection combined with clear, precise communication is now a necessary part of a life safety strategy for any building,” said Thomas Connell, senior manager, Life Safety, Johnson Controls, Milwaukee. Detect360 ASR integrates with other technologies, including video feeds from existing cameras and intrusion, mass notification, access control and panic button/manual initiation systems. Using acoustic sensors with multiple microphones to detect the sound of gunfire, advanced software algorithms analyze the signature to confirm it came from a gun and use information from the sensor closest to the gunshot to display the location of the shooter on a map-based graphical user interface.

Gunshot detection with video

The latest iteration of the technology incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) threat detection, surveillance and analytics to detect handguns, long guns, knives and threatening actions before an active shooter situation is initiated. Athena Security’s AI threat detection and active shooter safety platform connects directly to an existing security camera system to deliver fast, accurate threat detection and integrates with leading video management platform and camera providers Genetec, Eagle Eye Networks and Avigilon.

According to the Athena Security white paper, "A Study of Gun Detection Accuracy in the Athena Security Artificial Intelligence System," the technology uses multiple levels of intelligence and sub-systems to quickly identify, categorize, classify and alert. These systems include machine learning, deep learning, and a neural network to identify threats.

About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer

Deborah L. O’Mara is a journalist with more than two decades experience writing about security, life safety and systems integration, and she is the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at dlocommunications@gmail.com...

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