IoT & Embedded Technology Blog

Sandy Hook & Aurora Theatre - Can Embedded Technology be a Part of the Solution?

In yesterday’s blog we looked at some pretty creepy applications for situational awareness technology. Now, let’s look to how these systems can be employed in a much more socially acceptable manner. In the wake of the Sandy Hook School and Aurora Theatre tragedies, President Obama has made a governmental call to action with a task force being formed to examine every possible solution. Gun control will be considered as well as the NRA’s plan to use more armed guards.  Neither extreme is likely to be a good standalone solution.

Embedded computing could be part of a more optimal solution. Situational awareness technology similar to the signage and Verizon patent could be used as part of surveillance and security systems. In large urban areas, systems that detect and precisely locate gunshots are already being successfully deployed.  When these Gunshot Location (GSL) systems are coupled with remote controlled high definition cameras it is makes it much more likely that a perpetrator can be swiftly apprehended.

In an indoor setting like a school and movie theatre a GSL system would be presented with challenges that they would not have outdoors. The acoustics of walls and hallways will require sophisticated Digital Signal Processing (DSP) capabilities to account for the echoes and make a precise location. If we take the movie theatre into account, there would have to be some feedback of the movie soundtrack back into the GSL system to ignore the gunshots in the movie.

So, would this situational awareness and GSL technology be the complete solution? Unfortunately the answer would be no. What it would be is a mitigating factor allowing in some cases a much more timely response from security and/or law enforcement. The emergency responders would immediately know the identity and location of the threat. It is also possible that a situation could be prevented if the situational awareness presented an actionable alert to security before the shooting starts. Angry shouts, rapid changes in the area population’s mood / emotions could be possible triggers. Camera systems that identify possible guns being carried could also play a part but they would need humans as a backup. Even so, these surveillance systems would have the constant attention that no human could consistently apply over long time periods.

Regardless of the exact details of President Obama’s task force findings and the resulting US government legislation and response that follow, there are a few elements that are certain. Money will be appropriated and visual and acoustic data from widespread camera and microphone installations will need to be tightly integrated to provide the actionable data. Therefore, there will be clear opportunities in 2013 and beyond for embedded component, system and software suppliers. Those suppliers that already are participating in Digital Signage or Digital Security and Surveillance markets will have an advantage but new or innovative technology can easily disrupt the incumbents so complacency is not an option.


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