In a previous blog, I discussed the effect of nighttime lighting on urban crime rates. Studies have shown that, despite many people’s expectations, lighting levels do not necessarily affect an area’s safety or the amount of crime. They do, however, affect our perception of safety; most people feel safer in well-lit areas. To instill this sense of safety and lower energy costs, many cities have begun replacing traditional street lighting with amber LED lighting, which provides sufficient visibility for pedestrians and vehicles but is more efficient and less intense than other lights. But can our street lighting do even more?
While it would be unreasonable to expect lighting to eliminate crime entirely, recent progress in LED technology may be able to help. I’m talking specifically about gun violence here, which accounts for thousands of US deaths every year. So far in 2015, there have been over 10,000 gun-related deaths and over 40,000 incidents involving guns. GE Lighting is joining forces with SST, Inc., a security company, to implement something called the ShotSpotter Gunshot Location and Detection System. The technology would provide reliable information on the time and location of gunshots, which authorities can now only provide about 10% of the time. The two companies have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to install ShotSpotter technology into GE’s software- and sensor-enabled LED streetlights.
Gunshot Detection Technology Combined with LED Lighting
ShotSpotter uses acoustic sensor technology to detect when and where gunshots occur. If combined with the right software, ShotSpotter could analyze data and send results to law enforcement and first-response agencies.
This is where GE Lighting comes in. Earlier this year, GE introduced the Intelligent Environments for Cities platform—a fancy name for their series of data-sensor-equipped, cloud-based LEDs. GE’s lights can also transmit data on weather and light conditions, parking availability, environmental hazards, and be equipped with video monitoring and public-address systems. San Diego, CA, is one of the cities already using GE LED technology; they’ve reported a savings of more than $350,000.
With ShotSpotter’s gunshot monitoring technology, GE’s intelligent LEDs can each be part of a revolutionary network of responsive, data-collecting devices. Installing this network in a violent neighborhood would provide an automated, 24/7 neighborhood watch program.
Reliable and Immediate Information for First Responders
Law enforcement and emergency responders often lack immediate and reliable information about shootings. Individuals in neighborhoods plagued with frequent gun violence are often reluctant or unable to report information on shootings. Oftentimes, those who do report a shooting can only provide incomplete or incorrect information.
Installing sensor technology into LED lighting helps close this information gap and makes it possible for police, ambulatory services, and other first responders to assist gunshot victims and apprehend suspects. The LEDs would be able to collect data on incidents including the number of shots fired, the number of shooters, and the precise location from which shots were fired. Almost immediately after bullets are shot, information can alert dispatchers or specific responders, similar to alarm notification software many companies are already using. Over time, the data would be able to show, specifically, where these crimes are happening and where law enforcement would be most effectively deployed.
LiFi Brings Us One Step Closer to the Internet of Things
The collaboration between GE Lighting and SST demonstrates how LED lighting offers much more than illumination. LEDs in LiFi, which is basically WiFi transmitted through the visible light spectrum, could turn every streetlight into a technological node; a web of these nodes across a city would act like an interactive, communicative web of information.
As ShotSpotter and GE continue to roll out their plans for the lights, experts are exploring the other applications of their technology. Streetlights wired with both ShotSpotter and LiFi technology have the potential to alert mobile users within a specific radius of a shooting, giving them a chance to find cover. Similar alerts could be sent to alert users about extreme weather, heat, or cold.
Do you think ShotSpotter technology would have a positive impact on urban crime rates? Let me know below!