Technology can help make North Carolina smarter and safer – here’s how

Editor’s note: Steve S. Rao is an at-large councilor and former Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Morrisville and Opinion Writer for WRAL Tech Wire. He has served on the board of America’s New Economy, now the American Immigration Council, and the Race and Equity Task Force of the NC League of Municipalities. He is a regular contributor to WRAL TechWire.


MORRISVILLE- A few weeks ago in my Op Ed, Making North Carolina, A Smart State, I discussed how cities, counties, and our state can leverage the Internet of Things and the data economy to improve the quality of the services we provide to our residents, accelerating the growth of technology startups and creating the jobs of the innovation economy, right here in North Carolina.

However, recently, in the midst of tragic gun violence, most recently in Uvalde, Texas, Buffalo, New York, Highland Park, Illinois and a recent increase in shootings near my home in Durham and Raleigh, I have started to wonder how the application of smart technology helps us fight gun violence and keep our community safe.

Making NC a “Smart State”: Lessons from the Morrisville Smart City Handbook

As an elected official and political analyst on the PBS Carolinas Black Issues Forum and a number of radio shows, most of my comments and thoughts on gun violence reduction over the past few weeks have focused on red flag laws, background checks, mental health investments. programs, raising the gun purchase age from 18 to 21, and many pieces of bipartisan gun reform legislation signed into law by President Biden last month.

Even Governor Roy Cooper has explained how we can put gun control laws in place to keep our communities and neighborhoods safe.

Other solutions for gun control have come from Republican leaders, including former US President Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, focused on tougher security measures, including single points of entry, metal detectors, more school police and armed teachers.

This year’s budget in North Carolina would nearly double the state’s specific school resource officer program, from $18 million planned for next year to $33 million. This is a matching grant program, and costs would increase in part because the state would provide $4 for every $1 of non-state funds a school spends on a school resource officer, in systems low-income schoolchildren.

Steve Rao

The budget also provides $32 million more than provided last fall for a competitive safe schools grant program. This program will be in its second year and the proposed budget is now $41.7 million. The grants are “to support students in crisis, school safety training, and school safety equipment.”

In addition, Wake County Schools will also continue their agreement with law enforcement agencies to continue to provide School Resource Officers to schools while considering stricter construction safety measures. new schools.

The challenge is that metal detectors can clog entrances, which could make students more vulnerable to attack, security experts note. Investments in school resource officers and safety grants are a good start, but can still fall short in terms of predicting or stopping the next incident of gun violence.

Additionally, security cameras are not routinely monitored – they are more likely to be a source of evidence after an incident. And gunshot detection technologies like ShotSpotter, which uses acoustic sensors to identify loud noises, have been criticized as ineffective.

With minimal progress on gun control measures in Congress and the challenges of tougher school safety efforts, it may be time to further explore how next-generation gun detection technologies can serve as a potential mass-fire deterrent.

Artificial intelligence technologies and smart sensors can be an effective alternative to metal detectors and other systems. They can also be part of an overall gun safety strategy.

Let me explain.


During a presentation at Internet of Things Slam at SAS Software, Adair Grover, CEO of Maryland Based, Wi-Fiber piqued my interest in the topic when he confirmed that gun sensors and the detection of guns were part of his companies’ intelligent smart platform. Grover went on to explain that if authorities could use artificial intelligence to spot guns or identify potential shooters sooner, they might be able to prevent gun violence like school massacres in Uvalde, Texas, Oxford , Michigan, and Parkland, Florida.

This week, I took the time to research specific examples of how these types of technologies are applied to ensure gun safety.

Evolve uses a combination of ultra-low frequency electromagnetic fields and advanced sensors to detect concealed weapons when people pass through a portal. (

  • This high-speed screening system is already used in several sports arenas, entertainment venues and theme parks, the Washington Post reported.
  • The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system in North Carolina, with 150,000 students, is installation of scanners at a cost of $1.7 million over three years.
  • It’s not foolproof, though: Evolv’s system has generated false positives from some Google Chromebook laptops, according to a analysis by IPVM, a security industry trade publication.

Hexwave, developed in a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and licensed by Liberty Defense Holdings, is a similar system. It uses 3D imaging and AI to detect concealed weapons when people walk between two signs.


Zero Eyes, used by schools in 18 states and currently in pilot phase at Oxford High, integrates its artificial intelligence software with a school’s existing surveillance cameras to identify firearms in a camera’s field of view. (Attackers often brandish their weapon before a rampage, according to the company.)

  • The security image, stamped with the time and location, is then reviewed by a trained military veteran to verify that the detected object is in fact a firearm.
  • In about five seconds, ZeroEyes will issue an alert to school officials, providing a description and location of the threat — often before any shots are fired, co-founder Mike Lahiff told Axios.
  • The technology serves as a “force multiplier” with the goal of delivering better information to first responders faster, he said.


Recently, Pro Tem Mayor of Durham, Mark Anthony Middleton recently held a public meeting with Shot Spotter, to explore alternative solutions to deal with the increase in shootings in Durham.

The million dollar question is whether these systems can or will prevent future shootings.

ZeroEyes says it has detected “thousands of firearms” since its launch in 2018, including BB guns and paint guns that students use to play games like “Assassin” on school grounds.

The challenge is that AI technology can be expensive, around $25 per month per camera, in the case of ZeroEyes. In a large high school with 200 cameras, that might equate to $5,000 a month, and many schools don’t have that amount of money at their disposal. (

One option for schools may be to encourage county commissioners and school boards to allocate more dollars to these types of AI-based solutions in an effort to improve school safety. These efforts could be a good addition to measures already being considered by Wake County, such as increasing the number of school resource officers. Also, perhaps additional gun reform efforts could include additional funding for these types of technologies. there might be opportunities to invest more ARP dollars


As we continue to develop the Smart City Innovation Playbook in the Triangle and North Carolina, I can only hope our venture capitalists can explore investing in technology-based gun detection companies. ‘IA. Recently we have seen an increase in the number of local start-ups, leveraging the best of AI and data/analytics to build high-growth businesses and work with local governments in areas such as healthcare , sustainability and transport.

Perhaps it is time we consider leveraging smart city solutions for public safety solutions in the midst of such senseless violence. We can look to the leadership of RIOT to encourage more of these types of startups to enroll in the RIOT Accelerator Program!

Finally, school systems should explore these types of solutions. Another tragedy, like Uvalde, could be averted if law enforcement could show up in seconds, rather than minutes before it’s too late.

I know that no parent today dropping off their child at school feels convinced that a similar incident cannot happen at their child’s school. I look forward to speaking at upcoming meetings of Wake County Commissioners and School Boards, about how innovative technology, if used in the right way, could potentially save lives.

Finally, as the Triangle region is full of leading companies in the data, analytics and artificial intelligence market, I believe we have a great opportunity to leverage the experience and leadership of these large companies, to encourage more research and innovation in gunshot detection. technology and public safety solutions. IBM, SAS, Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco, Red Hat and the many market-leading technology companies in our region can continue to play a role in focusing on these markets and take a more active role in supporting emerging companies in this area.

As we continue to develop our Smart City and Innovation Playbook, let’s not be afraid to think outside the box, let’s unite the best and brightest minds in our region, collaborate, innovate and do whatever we can to ensure the safety of our communities. .

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