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GE’s Smart City project now includes streetlights with gunshot detection

GE’s Smart City project now includes streetlights with gunshot detection

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GE's Smart City is about to get a lot more aggressive about gun violence. Today at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention, ShotSpotter CEO Ralph Clark announced a new partnership with General Electric, integrating the company's gunshot detectors into General Electric's smart streetlights. It's the first major law enforcement feature for GE's Smart City project, which has traditionally focused more on the environmental and logistical benefits of IT integration.

At its heart, the new partnership is about shared hardware. GE's smart streetlights already come with a sophisticated processor, which is powerful enough to perform the same operations that power a ShotSpotter device. All that's required to turn the lights into gunshot detectors is some new software and what Clark described as "a two-dollar-and-fifty-cent microphone." ShotSpotter's computing infrastructure can handle the rest.

All you need is a microphone

For cities interested in gunshot detection, the primary difference will be coverage area. Most ShotSpotter deployments currently cover just a few square miles — typically specific neighborhoods where local police are particularly concerned about gun crime. But if a city is using GE's computerized streetlights, it's possible to equip the entire city with detectors at minimal cost. "Now we've got the ability to cover an entire city and not see the cost of covering an entire city," Clark told The Verge.

By equipping streetlights with gunshot detectors, GE and ShotSpotter aim to get accurate information to law enforcement in real time when a shooting occurs. Once a streetlight detects and locates gunfire, it will alert police stations, dispatch centers, and officers' smartphones with information related to the shooting, according to GE. The technology is precise enough to determine the exact location where the shots where fired, the number of rounds fired, and the number of shooters present.

Like much of GE's Smart City technology, it's difficult to say what the system would look like in practice. Higher costs have scared away many cash-strapped municipalities, and there hasn't been a full deployment of the technology. Still, a number of cities have signed up for trials, including Jacksonville and San Diego earlier this year. ShotSpotter is currently engaged in a two-year pilot program in New York, with other deployments underway in Washington, DC; San Francisco; and a high school in Newark, California.