Schools use artificial intelligence to spot guns

The Associated Press

Only one company currently meets all those criteria: the same organization that touted them to Kansas lawmakers crafting the state budget.
That company, ZeroEyes, is a rapidly growing firm founded by military veterans after the fatal shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
And in state capitols, some companies are successfully persuading policymakers to write their particular corporate solutions into state law.
In Florida, legislation to implement ZeroEyes technology in schools in just two counties cost a total of about $929,000.
ZeroEyes is not the only company using surveillance systems with artificial intelligence to spot guns.
In Kansas, ZeroEyes’ chief strategy officer presented an overview of its technology in February to the House K-12 Education Budget Committee.
Kansas state Rep. Adam Thomas, a Republican, initially proposed to specifically name ZeroEyes in the funding legislation.
The $5 million appropriation won’t cover every school, but Thomas said the amount could later increase once people see how well ZeroEyes technology works.

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TOPEKA, Kansas. (AP)— Kansas may soon provide grants totaling up to $5 million to schools so they can install artificial intelligence systems on their surveillance cameras that can detect gun ownership. However the schools must fulfill a number of extremely strict requirements, and the governor must approve the spending.

The AI software must be patented, meet specific industry standards for security industry certification, be in use in at least 30 states, be “designated as qualified anti-terrorism technology,” and be able to detect, among other things, “three broad firearm classifications with a minimum of 300 subclassifications” and “at least 2,000 permutations.”.

At present, there is only one business that satisfies all those requirements: the same group that praised them to Kansas legislators who were drafting the state budget. These veterans of the armed forces founded ZeroEyes, a quickly expanding company, following the deadly shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The laws that Kansas Governor is currently considering. Laura Kelly makes two points clear. School security has grown to be a multibillion dollar industry as a result of multiple high-profile shootings. Furthermore, certain corporations are effectively influencing legislators in state capitals to incorporate their specific business solutions into state legislation.

According to laws passed earlier this year in Florida and Iowa, laws enacted last year in Michigan and Utah, and bills proposed in Colorado, Louisiana, and Wisconsin, ZeroEyes also seems to be the only company eligible for state firearms detection programs.

After passing legislation supporting ZeroEyes on Friday, Missouri is now the only state offering matching grants worth $2,5 million to schools so they can purchase firearms detection software that has been classified as “qualified anti-terrorism technology.”. “.

Co-founder and chief revenue officer of ZeroEyes Sam Alaimo stated, “We’re not paying legislators to write us into their bills.”. However, “if they’re doing that, I believe they’re doing their research and making sure they’re purchasing a vetted piece of technology.”. “.

After identifying visible firearms using artificial intelligence and surveillance cameras, ZeroEyes sends a warning to an operations center manned by retired military personnel and former law enforcement officers. Officials from ZeroEyes send out an alert to local authorities and school administrators if they determine that the threat is real.

“Get that gun before that trigger is squeezed, or before that gun gets to the door,” is the objective, according to Alaimo.

Very few doubt technology. However, some do object to the legislative strategies.

According to Jason Stoddard, director of school safety and security for Charles County Public Schools in Maryland, the extremely specific Kansas bill—specifically, the requirement that a company have its product in at least 30 states—is “probably the most egregious thing that I have ever read” in legislation.

Chaired by Stoddard, the National Council of School Safety Directors was recently established with the goals of establishing guidelines for school safety officials and resisting the push by vendors to promote specific products to legislators.

States frequently find themselves short on funding for other crucial school safety initiatives like electronic door locks, shatter-resistant windows, communication systems, and security personnel when they allocate millions of dollars for specific products, he warned.

As Stoddard put it, “The weapons detection powered by artificial intelligence is just amazing.”. However, it probably isn’t the current top priority for 95% of American schools. “.

Since the technology can also be expensive, some states are starting grant programs. The total cost of the legislation in Florida to install ZeroEyes technology in just two counties’ schools was approximately $929,000.

Not all companies use artificial intelligence in their surveillance systems to identify firearms, like ZeroEyes. One rival, Omnilert, switched from emergency alert systems to weapons detection a few years ago. It also provides 24-hour monitoring centers where users can review AI-detected firearms promptly and notify local authorities of any issues.

However, Omnilert’s innovation is still not covered by a patent. Moreover, the U.S. has not yet designated it. S. a federal statute from 2002 that offers liability protections for businesses, the Department of Homeland Security is considered an anti-terrorism technology. It is applicable to both.

Vice President of Marketing Mark Franken of Omnilert stated that while the company’s products are in hundreds of schools, they are not available in thirty states. However, he said that shouldn’t bar his business from receiving state funding.

In an attempt to get the governor of Kansas to veto the specific requirements, which Franken claimed would “create a kind of anti-competitive environment,” he has gotten in touch with her office. “.

The Iowa law mandating the installation of firearm detection software in schools was modified to allow the companies that manufacture the technology until July 1, 2025, to be recognized by the federal government as an anti-terrorism tool. But Democratic state Rep. According to Ross Wilburn, the designation was first meant to encourage businesses to advance their technological capabilities.

“It wasn’t designed to give, encourage any kind of benefit to one specific company or another,” Wilburn stated in a House debate.

To the House K–12 Education Budget Committee in Kansas in February, ZeroEyes’ chief strategy officer gave a summary of the company’s technology. A live demonstration of its AI gun detection was featured, along with multiple real-life surveillance images showing guns in parking lots, schools, and transit stations. The presentation also mentioned that authorities used ZeroEyes alerts to directly result in the arrest of roughly twelve persons last year.

Kansas state Rep. Originally, Republican Adam Thomas suggested naming ZeroEyes by name in the funding bill. The final version retained the criterion that effectively restricts it to ZeroEyes but deleted the name of the company.

Adamantly defending that clause was Republican House K–12 Budget Committee Chair Kristey Williams. She claimed that the state could not afford the delays of a traditional bidding process due to student safety during a negotiation meeting with senators. She also praised the company’s cutting-edge technology.

Williams stated last month, “We don’t think there was another option.”.

Although the $5 million appropriation won’t be sufficient to cover all schools, Thomas indicated that if more people see how well the ZeroEyes technology performs, the amount might eventually rise.

Thomas told The Associated Press, “I’m hopeful that it does exactly what we saw it do and prevents gun violence in the schools and that we can eventually get it in every school.”

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