Cell phone gun fire


You suddenly hear the sound of gunfire, several shots are fired but you don’t know where they are coming from. You start to panic. By instinct, you call the police. When they arrive you see them take out their smartphones and something that looks like a pack of cigarettes. Now policemen and security personnel have a new “weapon” in their hands to pinpoint where gunshots are coming from. A group of computer engineers from Vanderbilt University’s Institute of Software Integrated Systems have developed an application for smartphones such as the android platform to detect the location of a shooter based on gunfire sounds. This device is based on the physics and ballistics of gunfire where there is an initial expanding sound wave that travels from the muzzle of the handgun or firearm and afterwards the bullet traveling at supersonic speeds, generating a unique pattern of sound waves. The technology is based on these principles and a team using this application is required in order to triangulate a shooter’s position. The results detected are surprisingly accurate.

This handy piece of engineering would be ideal for teams such as the Special Weapons and Tactics team or SWAT.  This technology enables the real time detection of gunfire and is useful for strategic action in situations such as a bank robbery, a hostage situation or the pursuit of an armed suspect. Knowing where the gunman is can prevent an ambush and thus prevent injury, harm or in worst cases death to police and security personnel. The fact that it is installed on a smartphone, a consumer product, will allow businesses and agencies a cost effective safety measure. This application can be used in conjunction with other applications that are being developed on smartphones, with the long term goal of taking advantage of current technology, and harnessing its potential in the field of law enforcement, safety and security. A survivor of the Virginia tech shooting has developed a smartphone application that allows the reporting of a crime within seconds, including the location and picture of the sender as well as to notify emergency contacts and the police department.

This technology is based on a previous military application, funded by a grant from the DARPA. Just like the military technology developed a few years back it requires a sensor deck that is the size of a cigarette box. This contains the acoustic sensor system as well as the processing unit that would then transmit information to the smartphone via a Bluetooth connection. This technology has yet to see a real world setting and is not known whether it can detect gunfire muffled by a silencer. In the future this might be adapted to fit into surveillance camera units with an alerting system that is also smartphone based. This could be particularly useful for security on school campus, airports, banks, convenience stores, and public places.