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Artificial intelligence gun detection could soon be used in some Utah schools

Posted at 9:41 PM, Jan 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-09 00:08:43-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Some Utah schools could soon use artificial intelligence to detect a person brandishing a gun before they enter the building.

In the 2023 legislative session, the Utah Legislature passed H.B. 61 — School Safety Requirements — with the goal of increasing school safety.

"Part of the legislation was this carve out for the three million for this one-time opportunity for firearm detection software," said Rhett Larsen, the Utah State Board of Education school safety specialist.

In December, the Utah State Board of Education approved a $3 million contract with Utah-based tech company, AEGIX Global.

"Our contract focuses on creating ways that incidents can be actively managed combined with a technology called ZeroEyes to increase the response time for schools, but also even prevent incidents before they enter the building," said AEGIX CEO Chet D. Linton.

Linton says there are two components to this technology. First: AEGIX Aim, which provides first responders, educators, and administrators information related to the area and school, like maps of the building if an incident occurs. Second: ZeroEyes AI Gun Detection.

"They have an artificial intelligence or AI technology that's designed to identify firearms when they're outside of a structure, and immediately an alert can be sent off to their monitoring service," Linton explained. "They actually have offices that are monitoring 24/7. They verify there is actually a firearm, and in less than three seconds they send an alert to us that goes out to responders, and so a school can be locked down and somebody prevented from entering a school."

The technology will be available for all schools that want to participate, but Larsen says this is an opportunity, not a requirement. He hopes they will have an application and rubric sent out to local education agencies, also known as LEAs, in February.

"We will have the minimal requirements that will be needed. For example, schools will need to have cameras and certain technical requirements as part of those cameras, working wifi," Larsen said. "Right now, they can request up to four cameras at their school for the firearm detection software."

AEGIX will help train schools that decide to implement the technology.

"It's a lot of work for districts. They have to implement effectively, we want to make sure everyone is trained right, but when parents are supportive of what's going on in the district, it makes it a lot easier for the district to make decisions," Linton said.

Privacy has been a concern for some regarding the technology, but Linton says the ZeroEyes technology is not continuously streaming video capturing students.

"The only time is when there's an actual incident where a firearm detected. That image is captured, and it's sent off to be analyzed," Linton said.

As the state and schools continue to explore ways to increase school safety, Larsen says students should remain a focus.

"It takes all of us to do that as part of this one large multidisciplinary team."

Larsen says once LEAs are selected, they'll have until the end of June 2025 to use the software. After that, they'll need to work with local policymakers to secure funding to continue using it moving forward.