Local gunshot detection system being developed

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For all the problems that technology has sought to solve, there remains a particularly intractable one in South Africa: The violence and crime that comes with weapons – legal and illegal. With over 56 000 cases of aggravated robbery reported between 2015 and 2016, and more than 623 000 so-called contact crimes in the same period, the almost 15 000 known cases of illegal possession of a firearm indicate that there are many more guns out there.

Detection system1The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is joining the fight against gun crime by building South Africa’s first home-grown gunshot detection system. While there are similar systems made by international companies, the CSIR’s local solution looks set to cut the costs of implementing a gunshot detection system for private security companies and law enforcement officials alike.

The system has been designed to provide quick and accurate confirmation of shooting incidents using detection of an impulse noise and determining whether it is a gunshot or another kind of noise such as a vehicle accident or a window breaking. According to reports, the system will analyse and identify the sound, determining range, caliber and direction – for example, a .38 fired 50m away at a specific set of GPS co-ordinates.

This solution, while undoubtedly useful in identifying when and where gunshots take place, has a multitude of other uses. According to the CSIR, It is possible to use the detection system to determine the direction of a mortar attack, or even a rhino poaching event.

The gunshot detection system can be mounted on traffic or street light, and the CSIR is aiming to use solar power to keep each unit running. The CSIR has said the prototype is still quite bulky, but that “it is in the process of breaking down its complexities in order to make it more user-friendly and commercially viable”. Currently, it is vehicle mounted, and around 1.5 m by 1.4 m in size.

Similar systems have been implemented in a number of cities across America. When combined with CCTV in those metros, this technology promises to make the world a safer place – and one much easier to police. Whether the same success can be achieved in South Africa’s sprawling cities, however, is still to be ascertained.

The City of Cape Town is currently using an imported gunshot detection system, but there are no statistics to indicate if it has proved a deterrent to gun crime, or if it has assisted law enforcement in catching criminals using weapons. However, its ability to help pinpoint the range and location of gunshots could prove yet another vital link in the fight against rhino poaching.

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Copyright: stnazkul / 123RF Stock Photo

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Crown Publications, one of South Africa’s largest business-to-business publishing houses, came into existence in 1986. Since then, the company has grown from producing a single magazine, Electricity SA (renamed Electricity+Control), to publishing six monthly magazines, three quarterlies, and a number of engineering handbooks.