Steve Surfaro, industry liaison with Axis Communications and chair of the ASIS Security Applied Sciences Council, discusses emerging technology that cities and organizations can use to become smarter and safer.
Q. How can smart buildings increase the safety of those who work there?
A. First responders with mobile devices can use mobile location technology to find victims inside a building without relying on GPS. If all tenants who live or work in a smart building register their mobile devices, it’s possible to find out whose phone is not registered and potentially identify the approximate location of an active shooter. Seconds count on this.
Q. What about the future of gunshot detection and triangulation?
A. Gunshot detection is a really controversial issue. There are companies that use triangulation technology that estimates the location of a gunshot based on strategically placed microphones, but they can produce false alarms. Newer technologies use acoustic signature recognition. It employs deep learning and can be fine-tuned to listen for a particular pattern, and, once that pattern is established, it’s repeatable and does not create as many false alarms. In an environment where there’s noise of one type, like vehicles passing by, and there’s an explosion or a gunshot or glass is broken, that is a definitive acoustic signature.
Q. What trends can we expect to see from surveillance cameras?
A. Thermal imaging is such a tremendous technology and is getting better. Cooled thermal imaging sensors are expensive, especially when mounted on a helicopter—but they can save lives. One such sensor located the Boston bomber after the Boston Marathon bombing. Some lower-cost thermal imaging cameras can detect temperature gradients as well, so they can discern between people moving around and an explosion. This will also help firefighters. I’m from Phoenix, and out there, and in California, people suffer so much and have lost firefighters to these rapidly spreading fires. Through this technology, you’re able to have early warning if fires start to get too close to firefighters.
Q. What about facial recognition?
A. It’s used largely for forensics, so if investigators are trying to find an individual based on a photo, they can run a search on a facial recognition database. But the technology is being used in other ways as well. For example, airlines are testing it to streamline boarding. Stores in St. Louis, Missouri, were being robbed a few times a month, and one chain worked with the St. Louis Police Department, which had pictures of the robbery suspects. They created technology that stored images of the robbers in a microcomputer and compared them to a camera feed of people walking up to the convenience store door. The person looks up at the camera and the door is automatically unlocked in stride. If it’s not unlocked, either you’re not looking at the camera, or your picture is one of those tagged ones. Their faces aren’t being recorded, just compared to a list of potential suspects. During the test period of six months, there were no false positives and no armed robberies.