Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
An Albuquerque company has developed an ultra-smart security system that could potentially end mass shootings before such rampages can even begin.
When deployed, EAGL Technology Inc.’s new gunshot detection and lockdown system will instantaneously detect – with near complete accuracy – a single gunshot the moment it occurs. Then, within seconds, it will simultaneously lock down buildings, directly inform police with GPS coordinates that pinpoint where the shooting happened, and alert everyone in the area through public address systems, text messaging, email and more about what’s happening and what to do.
System sensors are deployed not only in buildings, but throughout the surrounding outside areas, so that if a gun blast occurs anywhere on the protected site, the entire complex will immediately be locked down, impeding the shooter from entering a building. In fact, artificial intelligence allows the system’s smart security cameras to detect anyone even carrying a gun, including a pistol strapped to the hip. And it will activate the alarm-response program if the individual swings the weapon in any direction.
Artesia Public Schools installed the system on all 10 of its campuses in 2018, becoming the first school district to adopt it. And since then, it’s been deployed at the University of New Mexico’s Valencia branch campus, and throughout the Kenosha School District in Wisconsin.
Police departments in Mason City, Iowa, and in Spokane, Washington, are also about to install the system in their downtown zones.
Artesia Facility and Maintenance Director Scott Simer said EAGL Technology’s system provides an unprecedented level of protection for local schools.
“Once we saw it in action – what it does and how fast it operates – we immediately integrated it into our security system,” Simer told the Journal. “It automatically and instantaneously locks doors and sends alarms notifying administrative staff, police dispatch and all school personnel without us having to do anything.”
Sandia Science and Technology Park Chairman and CEO Sherman McCorkle said the system could have played an important role in the recent massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May.
“If this system was installed in Uvalde, it would have locked down the school before the shooter could get in, because he first fired a shot outside,” McCorkle told the Journal. “In about 75% of mass shootings, the first shot is fired outside a building.”
“In the last 35 years, I’ve probably looked at over 2,000 technology-based startup opportunities,” McCorkle said. “EAGL is among the top three. It’s a very sophisticated system with smart sensors and intricate software that can help solve the problem of detection and lockdown.”
The system is the brainchild of Boaz Raz, an Israeli who emigrated to New Mexico in 1989 to earn an engineering degree at the University of New Mexico. He worked at Intel Corp. until 2006, then launched his own company, Security USA, which sold residential systems that integrated different protection technologies like access control, fire alarms and security cameras into a single platform.
When the housing market crashed in 2008, the company refocused from residential to commercial markets, particularly concentrating on schools. Then, the 2012 massacre of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut motivated Raz to elevate his efforts.
“I said, ‘I can do something about this for schools,’ and I started developing the EAGL security system,” Raz told the Journal. “I wanted to create a software and hardware system that would do everything automatically, not just for alarms, but to take direct action to counter an active shooting situation.”
The system includes patented technology licensed from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which specializes in sensor technology. The lab developed an advanced algorithm that allows EAGL’s proprietary sensors to detect gunshots based on large energy bursts, rather than sound, enabling the system to distinguish gunfire from other noises.
It can even determine what caliber gun was used in a shooting.
“It’s based on energy detection that activates when an energy wave is above a pre-determined threat threshold,” Raz said. “Music or general background noise won’t activate the sensor.”
That distinguishing capability enables a 99.6% accuracy rate in determining when something is real, leaving only a .4% chance of false alarms.
The system was tested in July 2020 at the Albuquerque International Sunport, where a SWAT team fired live gunshots near sensors, along with gunshot-mimicking noises, such as the sudden, sharp slapping of blocks of wood that can occur during construction.
“The SWAT team fired 160 rounds in five different locations, and the system detected everything accurately,” Raz said.
In addition, Raz and his engineering teams built a comprehensive software system that manages automated counter measures once a gunshot is detected, allowing the company to customize every system based on individual requirements for buildings and outside areas.
That includes pre-programmed directives for door and building lockdowns, mass notification through multiple channels for everyone in the area, capacity for real-time updates during incidents regarding safe areas and danger zones, and even panic stations for people hunkered down to alert authorities about their situation and receive instructions.
Emergency messages are sent directly to police operators.
“There’s no waiting on hold,” Raz said. “The message goes to the specific 911 based on the zip code for that area or building where the gunshot occurred. It appears within seconds on the 911 operator’s screen.”
Once a shot is detected, system security cameras provide real-time vision of incidents, backed by GPS showing exact locations. The system also automatically requests all international mobile subscriber identity, or IMSI, numbers for cellphones in the area during an incident, which cell towers continuously record and police can use to help identify shooters.
The entire system is wireless, with real-time connections to the cloud, or to a customer’s internal server. And the entire system is powered with long-lasting batteries and solar chargers for outside sensors, significantly reducing costs.
Perhaps most important, all the automated functions take place in seconds once a potential gunshot is detected.
The energy-burst algorithm determines in three seconds if the blast is actually gunfire. And within a maximum of seven seconds, every pre-programmed alarm, alert and lockdown procedure has been activated.
The company began actively selling the system in the U.S. and other countries prior to the pandemic. It’s now installed in more than three dozen schools.
“We have some 4,000 sensors set up in a couple hundred locations,” Raz said. “We just shipped systems to South Africa, Nigeria and Nairobi.”
The company markets its product through certified dealers, who are trained at EAGL’s 15,000-square-foot headquarters in the north Interstate 25 industrial corridor. Subcontractors manufacture the components, and EAGL’s Albuquerque employees then assemble and program the systems for shipment to client sites, where certified dealers install them.
EAGL dealers include some huge corporations – such as Honeywell, Siemens, Johnson Controls and Schneider Electric – plus dozens of smaller companies.
“We have more than 100 dealers in the U.S. and overseas,” Raz said. “That makes our company scalable. Otherwise, we’d have to open operations in every state, and in other countries.”
UNM’s Valencia campus installed the system for $180,000 three years ago, said branch Dean Richard Goshorn.
“It’s peace of mind for our faculty and students on campus,” Goshorn told the Journal. “If there’s a problem, the police are immediately warned, and a text message is sent to everybody.”
Artesia Public Schools paid about $1 million to install it districtwide.
“I hope it’s just wasted money – that we never have to use it,” Facility and Maintenance Director Simer said. “It’s sad we have to have it, but a child’s life is worth a lot more than what we paid for it.”