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GPS-Acoustic Sensors Detect Gunshots

March 31, 2010
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A GOOD interview with ShotSpotter, a tech startup founded way back in 1995 that detects gunfire with acoustic sensors placed on building rooftops, street poles and other hidden spots in cities where crime is a problem. In urban areas where many shots often go unreported, this technology enables police to act quickly and efficiently, and to map gunshots in ways they never could. This is how it works:

A Wired article in 2007 shows a graphic of how the system works (above) and breaks down the components of each sensor:

Microphone An internal microphone array gives the sensor 360-degree coverage and makes it possible to determine the direction a sound came from. Microphone
GPS Receiver Global positioning satellites give the location of each sensor. GPS also serves as a central clock, making it possible to triangulate an incident’s location based on the speed of sound. GPS Receiver
Thermometer Air temperature determines the speed of sound — crucial to calculating a shot’s location. The server at the station checks the Net for other atmospheric conditions that affect sound waves. Thermometer
Network Connection Each sensor is in constant contact with the server. Some are connected by a telephone line. Others have a digital link managed by a microprocessor. Network Connection
Memory In sensor units with a processor, if communication is interrupted or bandwidth becomes clogged, the memory stores the sounds until they can be uploaded. Memory

The ShotSpotter sensors have been deployed in a growing number of cities and counties across the U.S. and is used by dispatchers, emergency personnel, investigators, and crime analysts to target and reduce gun violence, helping communities reduce illegal gunfire and increase their safety.

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