Continued fears of mass shootings seek technological sentries
Paul Hildreth peered at a display of dozens of images from security cameras surveying his Atlanta school district and settled on one showing a woman in a bright yellow shirt walking a hallway.
A mouse click instructed the artificial intelligence-equipped system to find other images of the woman, and it immediately stitched them into a video narrative of where she was currently, where she had been and where she was going.
There was no threat, but Hildreth’s demonstration showed what’s possible with AI-powered cameras. If a gunman were in one of his schools, the cameras could quickly identify the shooter’s location and movements, allowing police to end the threat as soon as possible, said Hildreth, emergency operations coordinator for the Fulton County School District.
AI is transforming surveillance cameras from passive sentries into active observers that can identify people, suspicious behavior and guns, amassing large amounts of data that help them learn over time to recognize mannerisms, gait and dress. If the cameras have a previously captured image of someone who is banned from a building, the system can immediately alert officials if the person returns.
A year after an expelled student killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Broward County installed cameras from Canada-based Avigilon throughout the district in February. Hildreth’s Atlanta district will spend $16.5 million to put the cameras in its roughly 100 buildings in coming years.
Schools are the largest market for video surveillance systems in the U.S., estimated at $450 million in 2018, according to London-based IHS Markit, a data and information services company. The overall market for real-time video analytics was estimated at $3.2 billion worldwide in 2018 — and it’s anticipated to grow to more than $9 billion by 2023, according to one estimate
After a gunman killed 51 people in attacks at two mosques in New Zealand in March, Athena-Security installed gun-detection cameras at one of the mosques in June. Fahad A.B. Al-Ameri, a Qatari businessman with no affiliation to the mosque, paid for them because “all people should be secure going to their houses of worship,” he said.