ShotSpotter sensors integrated with streetlights alert police on gunfire detection

Gunfire is one of the biggest worries in growing cities especially those with dynamic populations which rise during daytime and fall in night time. It becomes difficult for police officials to locate promptly the source of the gunfire equally in a hustling and bustling business district of the city or in a sparsely populated quiet locale. ShortSpotter sensors installed discreetly in rooftops and streetlights as stand-alone devices help in triangulating the source within 10 feet of where it happened and determine how many shooters there are before the police arrive on the scene. Metadata can be extracted from the sensors to provide context to a gunshot, such as the number of shooters, where they are located, and when it happened.

ShotSpotter is developed by SST, a California based company. The official website says “ShotSpotter uses acoustic sensors that are strategically placed in an array of 15-20 sensors per square mile in order to reliably detect and accurately triangulate gunshot activity. Each sensor captures the precise time, location, and audio snippet associated with boom and bang sounds (impulsive noise) that may represent a gunshot. This data is first filtered by sophisticated machine algorithms that are then further qualified by an expertly trained and staffed 24×7 Incident Review Center at ShotSpotter to insure the events are in fact gunfire. In addition, they can append the alert with any other critical intelligence such as whether a full automatic weapon was fired. This process takes less than 45 seconds between the actual shooting and the digital alert (with a precise location dot on a map) popping onto the screen of a computer in the 9-1-1 Call Center.”

ShotSpotter is working with Current by GE to include its technology in sensors embedded in the smart streetlights produced by GE Lighting. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between GE and SST, Inc. was announced in June, 2016.

There are some critics pointing out that ShotSpotter microphones can pick up and record public conversations resulting in privacy concerns. However, the company has continued denying that the technology can be used in that mode as ShotSpotter cannot live stream.

ShotSpotter’s gunshot detection technology is already in place in 90 cities globally, in both urban areas and more remote regions proving its effectiveness in both environments. NYPD started using ShortSpotter technology from 2015 when a pilot project was executed involving installation of hundreds of tiny sensors on rooftops and light posts in several gun violence-prone precincts in Brooklyn and The Bronx. Although a Forbes report says that in case of most alarms, police departments close the call as unfounded, it is always better to be ready than sorry.

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