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GE to use gunfire sensors in LED street lighting

November 23, 2015

General Electric Co. is working with the developer of the ShotSpotter technology that can be used to quickly pinpoint gunshot violence — including potential terrorism — in cities.

The technology, which uses tiny microphones to pinpoint gunshots using triangulation, was once used by the Troy Police Department, until the city, which had deployed 22 of the ShotSpotter sensors, stopped using the technology in 2012. City officials argued it wasn't reliable enough at the time to justify the high costs.

GE Lighting signed an agreement with SST, the owner of ShotSpotter, a few months ago to incorporate the sensors in LED street lighting systems, a move expected to decrease the cost of deployment. SST is located in Newark, Calif., and is privately held.

GE developed a lot of its LED technology in Niskayuna. However, GE Lighting is based in East Cleveland, Ohio where GE has a large LED lab. The lighting business is also part of GE's home appliance division that GE is trying to spin off.

The ShotSpotter systems are used in 90 cities, although there have been concerns about their effectiveness due to false alarms and other technical issues.

The ShotSpotter sensors will be incorporated into "smart" LED street lights using the light's wireless system and microchips, offering cities a perfect mesh network at a lower cost of deployment.

It is unclear if the partnership will improve the accuracy or effectiveness of the systems, although the two companies say cities will be able to deploy the systems over a much larger area at a lower cost.

"With ShotSpotter sensors embedded into lighting fixtures throughout a city, much broader coverage areas will be available on a cost affordable basis," ShotSpotter and GE said in a September news release.

GE's agreement with SST is part of a larger push by GE Lighting to focus on offering cities high-end smart street lamps that can collect data on traffic and parking and relay that information back to the public using kiosks on the lights.

However, adding additional equipment to municipal street lighting can increase maintenance costs, according to electric utilities like National Grid.

"National Grid is not an advocate of incorporating more technology within the street light luminaire as it adds complexity to the overall device and significant cost," National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella said.

Times Union