NM district turns to gun-detection AI in effort to prevent school shootings
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The Clovis Municipal School District has recently implemented artificial intelligence (AI) technology that is specifically designed to identify firearms and potential shooters on school premises. This groundbreaking software has the capability to alert law enforcement even before a single shot is fired.
Created by the Philadelphia-based company ZeroEyes, the AI technology seamlessly integrates with the district’s existing camera systems and operates discreetly in the background. It continuously analyzes every frame of video footage, diligently searching for any indications of a firearm. If a gun is detected, the software promptly sends still images to a human reviewer who will determine the authenticity of the firearm and assess if lives are in jeopardy.
Remarkably, this human review process typically takes no longer than five seconds, as explained by Sam Alaimo, co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer of ZeroEyes. In the event that a real firearm is confirmed, district officials can be notified within seconds through various communication channels. Additionally, ZeroEyes has the capability to directly contact law enforcement via RapidSOS, a platform that instantaneously shares critical data with 911 call centers.
In addition to expeditious notifications, the software can also provide precise details regarding the potential shooter’s location, enabling law enforcement officers to swiftly and effectively neutralize the threat.
The significance of this innovation is underscored by Alaimo’s statement: "Schools are complex environments, and students often struggle to navigate them. If you call law enforcement and say, ‘There’s a shooting in my school,’ where would first responders go?" By directing law enforcement to the exact location of the shooter, lives can be saved within the shortest possible timeframe. This enables authorities to promptly attend to anyone who may have been injured. In high-stakes situations like these, every second is paramount and can make the difference between life and death.
Clovis Municipal Schools has committed to a four-year subscription to ZeroEyes’ software and monitoring services, amounting to $345,000. The funding for this technology has been sourced from the coronavirus aid bill, a federal pandemic recovery package totaling $2.2 trillion.
Loran Hill, the district’s senior director of operations, affirms that there have been no incidents of shootings in the history of Clovis schools. Nevertheless, the district is actively seeking proactive measures to prevent any such occurrence. After evaluating proposals from various companies specializing in detection and prevention technologies, ZeroEyes emerged as the preferred choice following a comprehensive review.
The district officials were particularly drawn to ZeroEyes for its potential to avert tragedies and its operation centers staffed with trained personnel. These centers, known as ZOCs (ZeroEyes Operation Centers), are staffed by individuals with military and law enforcement backgrounds who vigilantly await notifications of potential threats. When the AI detects a firearm, the software captures a screenshot of the video and outlines the perceived gun with a distinctively colored box. This assists the human reviewer in accurately identifying the potential threat within the image.
Within a brief span of three to five seconds, a ZOC operative can determine the presence of a threat. Should law enforcement need to be involved, the ZOC personnel can promptly relay vital information about the type of firearm possessed by the individual to the local authorities. Presently, ZeroEyes operates two ZOCs, one near Philadelphia and another in Hawaii.
Moreover, ZeroEyes operates a state-of-the-art green screen lab at its headquarters in Philadelphia. This facility allows for the creation of lifelike scenarios that replicate various physical environments, including classrooms, school hallways, and outdoor locations. The software is extensively trained to recognize an array of stock and modified firearms, ranging from small pistols to long rifles or shotguns.
As the software integrates seamlessly with a school district’s existing camera systems, it is capable of scanning for firearms within the entire range of the camera system’s field of view. Consequently, it operates with the same level of certainty as a human observer when it comes to detecting guns on campus.
Hill, a representative from Clovis Municipal Schools, highlighted one key feature of ZeroEyes that attracted district officials: its ability to detect things that a human might overlook.
According to Hill, artificial intelligence has the capacity to monitor schools continuously, which surpasses the capabilities of even the most dedicated student resource officers. ZeroEyes is able to cover a much larger area than a single officer ever could.
While there may be concerns about student privacy and the use of technology in schools, Alaimo, a spokesperson for ZeroEyes, assured that the software only receives images from school cameras when a potential threat is detected. The company does not have access to a live feed of any school district’s cameras.
Alaimo emphasized that ZeroEyes is highly committed to data protection and privacy rights. The software does not have the ability to recognize faces or store biometric data. The sole focus of ZeroEyes is to determine whether there is a gun present or not.
Another concern that arises when determining if someone might commit a crime, such as a mass shooting, is racial bias. While the software itself does not hold any bias in threat determination, it is possible for a human reviewing the images to have biases. Alaimo acknowledged these concerns but stated that those in the command center reviewing the images solely focus on identifying the presence of a gun.
Hill mentioned that the district extensively researched ZeroEyes before adopting the technology and they are confident that student privacy is protected. The company does not monitor or retain the district’s data. Additionally, Hill expressed confidence that race will not influence whether law enforcement is called or not, given their observations of the software demonstrations. The process of threat determination happens so rapidly that there is little time for the human reviewer to ascertain the race of a potential shooter.
ZeroEyes, founded in 2018, is currently utilized in 30 states. Alaimo estimates that by the end of the year, the software will be in use in all 50 states. The company’s AI technology is also used internationally in Mexico and England. Although the technology can be found in various locations like casinos and shopping malls, its primary purpose is to enhance school safety and prevent mass shootings.
Alaimo emphasized the urgency behind the development of ZeroEyes. Instead of the usual cycle of discussing mental health and gun laws, the company aimed to create a solution that can make an immediate impact and save the lives of children.
Source: New Mexico is a member of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus that receive support from grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Source New Mexico maintains full editorial independence. Contact Editor Shaun Griswold for any inquiries: email@example.com. Stay updated with Source New Mexico on Facebook and Twitter.
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