Outsmarting Active Shooters with the IoT and Social Media

The need to detect the origin of gunfire has a long history although it has advanced considerably in the past two decades. It is now is used in tandem with IP video surveillance and social media monitoring.

Brian Buntz

August 9, 2016

2 Min Read
Shot detection technology can be used to thwart active shooters.
iStock / Peshkova

In both World Wars, early acoustic location techniques were used to detect gunshots. And at the beginning of the 1990s, seismology techniques were employed to detect gunshots in East Palo Alto, which then had one of the highest murder rates per capita in the United States. In 1992, John C. Lahr, a Ph.D. seismologist who lived in nearby Menlo Park, created a network of microphones and custom software to detect the origin of the gunshots. After he proved that the technique was accurate, gunshot location technology has steadily become more popular in the United States.

Last month, we reported on how gunshot detection technology and IP video surveillance is being used to stop shootings.

According to Vidsys, a provider of converged security and information management software, it is possible to increase methods of situational awareness through enhanced video monitoring and social media data.

Fighting Shootings Before They Happen

If there is a crowd of people or a given area deemed to have a high risk, security officials can set up a perimeter around it. The security system can alert law enforcement automatically if an unauthorized person enters that perimeter, which can dramatically accelerate their response time. 

But it isn’t always feasible to set up boundaries around every at-risk area—nor is it possible to put a perimeter around all shootings before they happen. According to Vidsys, this is why more information is needed. Frequently before a violent act, there are clues or danger signs that can be detected via social media monitoring, or with other sensor data, such as crowd-density monitoring, that are indications of a potential situation. While social media monitoring can be used to identify threats, it can also be employed during a shooting to identify victims and people hiding from an active shooter. After the company Geofeedia emerged in 2012, a growing number of technologies have been developed to enable users to keep tabs on social media posts based on location. 

Stopping an Active Shooter

Social media data can also be used to fight shootings once they have begun. Vidsys can correlate data from social media or gunshot sensors with cameras in the area to respond immediately to the emergency. This strategy enables authorities to react quickly, and the data from social media can help them better understand the situation on the ground. Once there is a shooting, then the police are in a reactive mode. Vidsys says that actionable information is, therefore, critical to reducing the loss of life, and to apprehend the responsible individuals. According to Vidsys, the most likely primary sensors in such a situation would be gunshot (audible) sensors that would automatically correlate the closest CCTV cameras, as well as social media monitoring, to determine if there is information critical to the shooting.

About the Author(s)

Brian Buntz

Brian is a veteran journalist with more than ten years’ experience covering an array of technologies including the Internet of Things, 3-D printing, and cybersecurity. Before coming to Penton and later Informa, he served as the editor-in-chief of UBM’s Qmed where he overhauled the brand’s news coverage and helped to grow the site’s traffic volume dramatically. He had previously held managing editor roles on the company’s medical device technology publications including European Medical Device Technology (EMDT) and Medical Device & Diagnostics Industry (MD+DI), and had served as editor-in-chief of Medical Product Manufacturing News (MPMN).

At UBM, Brian also worked closely with the company’s events group on speaker selection and direction and played an important role in cementing famed futurist Ray Kurzweil as a keynote speaker at the 2016 Medical Design & Manufacturing West event in Anaheim. An article of his was also prominently on kurzweilai.net, a website dedicated to Kurzweil’s ideas.

Multilingual, Brian has an M.A. degree in German from the University of Oklahoma.

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