The system will be available to schools as early as January through a partnership between technology companies Kognition and Kidio.
It applies artificial intelligence to video cameras, allowing the video cameras to identify dangers and take action. The system can detect weapons, fights and other unusual activity and alert a school safety officer or even the police.
“We realized that this technology is really well-suited for schools because of threats that the schools are under [that] we’ve all read about and seen on the news,” Kognition Co-Founder and CEO Matias Klein said.
Kognition, a tech company located in Philadelphia, has made the technology available to large corporate spaces for years. A partnership with Kidio — another tech company that developed a school safety system — will help distribute the system to schools.
The system costs $5,000 per camera, but can be available for less based on the number of threat detectors and other factors.
Kognition created a 501(c)(3) called The Safer, Smarter World Foundation to donate the systems to schools.
“If I knew a building had an advanced AI-powered threat detector that was intended only to keep me safe, I would feel more comfortable in that building than one without it,” said Klein, who is Jewish.
The dangerous situation that might first come to mind is shootings, but Klein said there are other dangerous situations, like bullying and fights, which are more likely to occur and which the system can detect.
It can also provide information to first responders, allowing them to react more swiftly and letting them know, for example, the precise location of an active shooter.
“It’s only limited by the imagination of the customer and the technology ecosystem,” Klein said. “For example, our core technology allows your properties to think and act on its own. We give you the ability to see with the cameras and know what is happening. We give you the ability to make a decision about what is going on, but what decision you want to make is up to you and then what action you want to take is also up to you. If the action you want to take is simply sound an alarm, that’s a pretty simple action.”
The system takes advantage of cameras that are already in place, so it doesn’t feel more overt than security already there, unlike — for example — metal detectors. Metal detectors also cannot detect a weapon brought in a different way, such as through a window.
Klein acknowledged there might be privacy concerns with this kind of system, but, he noted, they are not selling the information or mining it for data.
“It’s a better world when kids can go to school and feel safe,” Klein said. “If there’s a couple cameras, maybe some people will be paranoid about it, [but] they’ll be safe. Safety’s more important at the end of the day.”
For Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, Head of School Sharon Levin and Chief Operating and Development Officer Alex Stroker said they would need to learn more about the system.
“We have systems in place that are pretty well-tested and thorough that were created and designed and developed with the assistance of Radnor Township police and our own security personnel that we have a significant amount of comfort in,” Stroker said. “It certainly would be welcome, but it would need to be greatly studied first.”
Klein believes the technology will eventually become standard at different kinds of spaces, such as small business and synagogues.
“In general, people believe this is the right model. … If you look out five years from now, a threat detector will be a standard piece of safety equipment in every building.” Klein said. “It just makes sense.”