Startup Safe Zone showcases affordable gunshot detection tech at ISC West 2019

As the massacres in Orlando, Las Vegas, Parkland and elsewhere have demonstrated, mass shootings can happen anywhere and anytime. And while the debate rages on in Washington and state legislatures across the country as to what steps need to be taken to help curb gun violence, one thing that nearly everyone agrees on is there needs to be greater investments made by schools and businesses in technology that can help prevent or mitigate casualties in active shooter scenarios.

As reported by Securityinfowatch.com, aside from video surveillance and access control, there has been a noticeable uptick in both interest and adoption of gunshot detection solutions by end-users recently, which has resulted in a number of companies entering the market with their own unique offerings. Despite the promise held by the technology and its ability to quickly provide accurate information about when and where a gunshot is fired within a facility, these solutions remain too costly for many end-users to implement, especially public schools which are working with already limited budgets.

Mike Anderson, president of gunshot detection startup Safe Zone, which is making its debut appearance at ISC West this year, says that lowering the costs and barriers to adopt this technology was one of things that motivated him to enter the market having spent the bulk of his career designing various consumer and home automation products.

“We have a definite cost difference between what we offer and what else is available on the market,” Anderson says. “Our devices are $149 and so we have a significant advantage in cost. Installation of our system is also a little more cost effective; it doesn’t require hardened boxes or anything like that. It’s a surface mount, very easy to get wire to and, in fact, the primary device is the Wi-Fi device so the installation is very easy.”

In the process of creating a new automation and control system for energy management at a former company, Anderson says they developed an occupancy sensor that they felt like could serve more than a single purpose. One of the first things they thought about adding was glass break detection but they soon realized that most glass break sensors were not very intelligent.

“They can’t tell the difference between the glass on a sliding glass door breaking or a single pane in a window breaking. It seems like most people would want to know what is getting broken, so we developed an intelligent glass break sensor technology that could do that and so we added that to the occupancy sensor,” Anderson says.

Heading down this path eventually led Anderson and his team to think about expanding applications for these sensors, which resulted in the development of the Safe Zone detector.

“The glass break detector is an acoustic sensor, the occupancy sensor is an infrared sensor and so we started thinking about other applications for that and it occurred to us that gunfire might be something that it could do. We refined it a little bit, discovered there was a big market for a gunfire detector that is cost-effective and so we spent some more time developing that and we got it to where it could discriminate between different types of firearms and ammunition by using a combination of infrared muzzle flash analysis and the analysis of the acoustic signature,” Anderson adds. “Now, we’re focused on that market alone.”

According to Anderson, Safe Zone has decided […] that rather than use detectors as individual, standalone solutions; they actually pull together data from multiple detectors and analyze disturbances as a single event.  “If you fire a gun, the detector in that room is going to pick it up but also the detectors in the adjacent rooms and in the hallway are going to pick it up, so we analyze data from all of those detectors together which gives us much higher accuracy and more reliable prediction of what type of weapon it is,” he explains.

Anderson believes one of the current shortfalls of gunshot detection is that end-users are hesitant to deploy the number of sensors necessary to achieve the level of accuracy needed for most installations.

“The thing about gunfire detection is you want to get it accurate and really provide the data that law enforcement needs to respond,” he adds. “It takes more detectors than most people are putting in with the other systems simply because of the costs involved.”

Anderson says that one of the biggest market challenges is simply creating awareness about the technology itself and that it can be affordable to boot. “People need to understand that these systems are available and that they will save lives,” he says.

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