AI surveillance cameras now being used to detect potential threats

It's just a simulation, but it feels real, as the employee carrying out the demonstration inside Actuate offices in Midtown Manhattan walks in carrying a mock AR-15 rifle.

In a matter of seconds, after the employee is visible in the office space, a surveillance camera in the room goes into action.

A green flash pulsates across the monitor set up in another corner of the room after the video management system recognizes a potential threat in the room.

"As you can see it's pulsing green within about a second or two. That means an alert has been registered," says Actuate CEO and co-Founder Sonny Tai. "Our AI model has made a detection and sent an alert to video management systems."

The company is utilizing emerging technology that uses artificial intelligence software for surveillance cameras to detect potential problems.

"We initially built our company as a gun detection company in response to a lot of active shooter threats that happened over the years," Tai said.

After the Las Vegas shooting in 20017, Tai who is a former captain in the US Marine Corps, surveyed law enforcement agencies across the country asking what could be done.

"A common refrain heard from a lot of them was a wish security cameras could automatically identify threats," he said.

Most business or office buildings or public spaces already have cameras.

Actuate doesn't actually install any new devices, instead, the company connects cameras online in an encrypted way and then runs its algorithms that are programmed to search for problems.

"99% plus of cameras are used in a very forensic way. Which means that if something bad happens, they come back and review the footage hours or even days later and try to catch a bad guy," Tai said. "What we're looking to do is in a non-privacy intrusive way, so we don't track any facial recognition, or biometrics or PI, but be able to identify potential indicators of threats to safety and security, and send these alerts out in real-time to people who would need to respond."

It could be at a used car lot or construction site at night with cameras programmed to notify when a suspicious person walks near a fence.

Or think back to our first example.

Ellie walks into an office carrying a gun, after it's detected, a notification is sent to security teams or anyone watching a bank of monitors. Alerting them as to when and where the threat is unfolding.

"This is something that they'll get an alert within a couple of seconds to be able to pull this up and you'll be able to see the bounding box drawn around the weapon that's detected."

Of course, there are privacy concerns.

"That's something that we as a company we made a conscious decision about. It's actually in our company values on the website is that we don't do any form of facial recognition, we don't track any form of skin color or even the color of your clothing or anything like that," Sonny says. "We just want to identify objectively what is happening security camera frame, as for somebody who's pulling out a weapon, or if somebody's trespassing

What about what happened in NYC this April, the mass shooting on a Brooklyn subway car, people then desperately escaping onto a Sunset Park subway platform.

The MTA cameras infamously were not working at multiple locations.

If they were working and connected to the internet, Tai says Actuate's technology may not have been able to prevent what the gunman did, but it could have made a difference in the precious seconds afterward.

"We can immediately react and send security teams to go in and neutralize the threat. and perhaps equally importantly, if we send this information to the MTA, for example, they can better understand the situation or ground executor defensive evacuation measures in a much more timely way. so the people who need to evacuate notice the situation at hand instead of just operating that fog of war, chaos, and confusion."

The Actuate technology is currently being utilized by 20,000 cameras across the country including at schools, college campuses, construction sites, and used car lots.

Could it make a dent in the crime wave gripping New York City?

Sonny says it could be a tool in the larger scope of problems, if the cameras are working.