The ZeroEyes Operations Center can send alerts as fast as 3 to 5 seconds after a gun is detected, as seen in this promotional mock-up. Photo provided by ZeroEyes
The ZeroEyes Operations Center can send alerts as fast as 3 to 5 seconds after a gun is detected, as seen in this promotional mock-up. Photo provided by ZeroEyes

Center Grove Community Schools will use a new artificial intelligence technology platform to detect firearms in security images to protect students and staff.

Philadelphia-based ZeroEyes is an artificial intelligence-based gun detection video analytics platform that will be utilized to proactively protect students and faculty from gun violence. It is designed to help mitigate mass shootings and gun-related violence by reducing response times, providing intelligence on threats and “delivering clarity among chaos — ultimately saving lives,” the company says.

If a gun is identified in security footage, images will instantly be shared with the ZeroEyes Operations Center, which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, by specially-trained U.S. military and law enforcement veterans. If the experts determine the gun threat is valid, they will send out an alert and “actionable intelligence,” including a visual description, gun type and last known location, to school staff and first responders in as fast as three to five seconds, ZeroEyes officials said.

Being able to get actionable, verified information to first responders quickly can save time and lives, said Sam Alaimo, the company’s co-founder and chief revenue officer.

“When the fog of war happens, they get 100 phone calls from 100 different people with 100 different stories. … It’s almost impossible to act with how much contradictory information they get,” Alaimo said. “We simplify it. We give them an image, the location and the timestamp — and that’s the whole point.”

ZeroEyes employees do not monitor the feeds live, and screens inside their operations center remain blank unless a gun is identified. Having a human involved in verifying the alert is critical, Alaimo said.

“We don’t want to dispatch false positives to our end users. We don’t want to end up with that kind of situation,” he said. “We want them to hear from us when it’s the real thing.”

They’ve also worked to make it as accurate as humanly possible, he said.

ZeroEyes’ platform will be deployed across Center Grove’s nine school campuses and layered into the existing camera system. It is being paid for with a $100,000 Indiana Department of Homeland Security Secured School Safety Grant, school officials said.

Before choosing ZeroEyes, Center Grove officials had seen a handful of safety products. What stood out to them about ZeroEyes was that they did monitoring of the detections as well, said Bill Long, the district’s assistant superintendent of operations.

“There are other software out there [where] we’re responsible for the monitoring, and with 900 cameras, that makes it really hard. So we liked the idea that they did the monitoring,” Long said. “The quickness in which they could notify our police department and the dispatch center was really what tilted the table in their direction for us.”

A need for better technology

ZeroEyes was established in 2018 by former U.S. Navy SEALS and elite technologists. Several of them went into the business world after leaving the military but found there to be a “distinct lack of purpose.” Alaimo said.

“We wanted a good fight and we wanted to work together again,” Alaimo said.

After the 2018 shooting at Parkland High School in Parkland, Florida, the U.S. did a “serious reassessment” of the growing problem of mass shootings, especially those that happen at schools. Shortly after the shooting, ZeroEyes CEO and Co-Founder Mike Lahiff picked up his daughter from another school, and she was shaken up by an active shooter drill. They asked the school about what they do with their cameras, and the response was they would use them after an incident, like after a car was stolen, and would hypothetically use them after a mass shooting, Alaimo said.

This raised questions for the SEALS about how the technology could be used more proactively to help respond to threats and keep kids safe. So ZeroEyes was founded, he said.

It took a few years to build the software, but they thought they would have it ready to go to market for K-12 schools in 2020. Then the pandemic happened, and since schools were closed, they pivoted to commercial and government markets. This pivot improved the software for schools, Alaimo said.

ZeroEyes’ platform has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a “promising anti-terrorism technology.” It is the first video analytics technology to receive a SAFETY Act Designation from DHS, company officials say.

Focus on privacy

Both Center Grove and Zero Eyes officials emphasized that the software is trying to identify weapons, not people. This was deliberate by design, Alaimo said.

The popular thing for a lot of companies is to be in multiple domains — detection, facial recognition and mass notification as examples. If ZeroEyes were to do all that, they would be a “B at everything instead of an A+ at one thing,” Alaimo said.

So they decided to be an A+, he said. Streaming live feeds also opened up ethical and privacy concerns.

“We are patriots. We do believe in privacy, and streaming live feeds opened up a lot of room for privacy invasions and ethical concerns that we didn’t want to go down that path,” Alaimo said. “The way we run business with this still frame image and not streaming live feeds is very, very helpful for K-12 environments with kids running around, and also hospitals. “

ZeroEyes’ platform also does not store personal or biometric information, or conduct any type of facial recognition, the company says.

Benefits have shown

There have also already been results showing the effectiveness of ZeroEyes’ software. Recently, the company detected a man with a gun on a subway platform for one of their transit clients. The man, who was highly intoxicated, had a loaded handgun on his chest, so ZeroEyes notified first responders who were able to intervene before anything happened, Alaimo said.

After this, the company and the client took a step back and thought about what could’ve happened if the man had chosen to use the gun.

“So this is the confirmation of what we’re doing here,” He said. “I can’t quantify for you how many mass shootings didn’t happen because of ZeroEyes because it didn’t happen. So detections like these are what drive it home.”

Center Grove schools benefit from the software by being able to identify a weapon proactively. It also allows Center Grove police officers to respond to specific areas without having to wander the building to find the threat, Long said.

“Its pinpoint accuracy, along with the speed and the response, keeps our staff and our students safe and hopefully we detect that before they even get in the building,” he said.

The software is also a “force multiplier” for the Center Grove Police Department, Long said.

“We have only so many police officers around and this gives us another eye, or eyes, on safety and security,” he said. “And I think it allows them to be more effective and really just be a multiplier for us for added safety.”

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