What is a Gunshot Detection System?

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Written By: J. Lasswell
March 24, 2023

A gunshot detection system (GDS) uses sensors to identify sound waves with a signature gunshot pattern.

The KnowWhere Campus Safety System boasts an impressive capability to detect distressed sounds within school grounds; specifically, gunshots. This functionality allows for the instant transmission of information to both administrators and first responders. The system combines this auditory information with visual cues, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of the situation, integrating both elements to provide users with immediate access to critical information. While Drift Net’s multifaceted system is cutting-edge, gunshot detection systems (GDS) have been integrated into high-crime neighborhoods since the late ’90s. This is not without controversy, however, as many critics of the technology argue that gunshot detection systems in predominantly Black communities inaccurately detect gunshots and attract negative attention from law enforcement. While gunshot detection systems may not be the perfect solution for neighborhoods, it’s certainly an excellent application for schools and businesses. 

How do they work?

Explaining the inner workings of a GDS would include an oppressive amount of technical jargon, but the general idea is simple: the system reads sound waves and can detect the source of sounds by the signature of their wave. Certain sounds have a distinct wave pattern, such as gunshots, which show as a sharp, impulsive wave. The effectiveness of a GDS relies on its accuracy; certain different actions can produce a sound signature that’s remarkably similar to each other, such as a low-caliber gunshot and a firecracker. You can see where problems can arise from this, as many legal activities taking place in an everyday neighborhood can set off a sound with a similar signature to a gunshot, prompting police arrival for something as innocuous as a piece of lumber falling off a truck. 

Gunshot detection systems have been around since the late 1990s, pioneered by a California-based startup ShotSpotter, and initially utilized in high-crime neighborhoods. These systems were designed to provide police with information about the location of gunshots to aid in their response time. However, as the technology was still new, it became apparent that thier system didn’t always accurately detect gunshots. Wired magazine even attributed the initial triumph of ShotSpotter to effective public relations rather than superior technology. This oversight would lead to years of controversy, as the inaccuracies of the tech would lead to increased negative attention from law enforcement in predominantly Black neighborhoods. This emerging tech was perceived to limit the freedoms of people occupying those communities, but when applied to a consciously controlled environment, such as a school campus, this technology finds its purpose.

Despite the concerns regarding the application of gunshot detection systems in high-crime neighborhoods, the technology has proved to be a valuable asset in schools. In a school campus application, safety and security are prioritized, and even if a cabinet falling over in a classroom triggers the GDS, school admins will want to know the sound’s source. A “gunshot-like” sound could indicate something has fallen or crashed, possibly injuring an occupant, or it could be attributed to erroneous behavior such as vandalization or fighting. The operative element which makes GDS a better fit for schools is that administrators have the discretion to make decisions based on what they are alerted to on the KnowWhere system, rather than law enforcement responding to a mistaken gunshot. In a school application, GDS allows administrators to inspect and evaluate all impulsive sounds taking place on campus, so they can make more informed decisions. 

The safety of students, staff, and customers should always be the top priority, and the KnowWhere Campus Safety System provides an effective solution to the problem of violence in these spaces. By combining advanced gun detection technology with visual cues detected via Edge AI, this system allows for a swift and appropriate response to any potential threat, potentially saving lives in the process.

In conclusion, the KnowWhere Campus Safety System's gunshot detection functionality is a valuable asset in ensuring the safety of everyone within schools and businesses. While concerns have been raised about the use of gunshot detection systems in high-crime neighborhoods, the application of such technology in schools and businesses is crucial for preventing violent attacks and ensuring a swift response to any potential threat. With its advanced technology and comprehensive security features, the KnowWhere Campus Safety System is at the forefront of the fight against violence in public spaces, and its importance cannot be overstated.