How Drift Net is using artificial intelligence to make schools more secure

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Chicago Inno
March 29, 2023

Aaron Coles thinks it's time for schools to upgrade their security systems.

During an active-shooter situation, every second counts, and the time it takes first responders to arrive can mean the difference between life and death. Coles wants to cut that response time to a matter of minutes.

Coles started Drift Net Securities the day after the Parkland, Florida, shooting in 2018 and this month announced a $15.6 million Series A raise — just days before a school shooting killed six people in Nashville on Monday. This week's event is personal: "One of my early investors owns many McDonald's in Tennessee, and one of his restaurants is right across the street from where this shooting happened," Coles told Chicago Inno.

"What Parkland taught me is when first responders have no clue where students or faculty are located and where the population distribution is, then they're really helpless if the threat is still on campus," he said. School shootings hit an unprecedented high last school year. "The violence isn't going anywhere," Coles said. "It's sad because what is happening now is people are planning for the when, not if. ... But the way we can respond is by adopting technology that can help protect others."

Coles wants to give schools the tools to help them better prepare for security threats and respond more efficiently by using artificial intelligence to detect weapons in real time. He came up with Drift Net, which uses visual sensors, threat sensors and thermal imaging to detect safety and health threats the moment they occur. The technology — which includes the KnowWhere Campus Safety System and KnowWhat Safety Management Software — provides schools with real-time data on where occupants are throughout the building, which can be vital during a critical incident.

"We do that without collecting any personal information," Coles said. The system also comes with weapons and shot detection, and is able to integrate with emergency dispatch or directly with first responders.

"As soon as they pull out a weapon, the KnowWhere devices will see that, understand what is going on in the frame by leveraging artificial intelligence, and as soon as that happens a resource officer on campus gets an alert on a tablet or desktop. From there they can dismiss if it's a false positive or can act if it's something more serious," Coles explained.

The Chicago-based AI security firm will use its Series A to enhance its automation and manufacturing abilities and further build out its team. Coles said he plans to double the size of the company's office space by the end of the year after it moved to a new nearly 24,000-square-foot office in the Loop in 2021.