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Don’t Like Metal Detectors? These Are the Next Gen Alternatives

By Michael J. Martin | February 18, 2023 | 3 min read
Metal detectors

Metal detectors (aka Magnetometers) have never been popular with organizations. Take schools, for example. When metal detectors were first installed in high schools in the 1980s, people complained. The machines were big and bulky, and made the schools look like a correctional facility. They slowed down foot traffic into buildings, required personnel to operate them, and were easily set off by false positives. Teenagers might get stuck standing outside in the cold for long periods of time because a zipper on a jacket had set off a metal detector.

Metal detectors are inconvenient, and increasingly they don’t pick up all weapons: many lethal weapons are now made of plastic and other non-metal materials. However, in this age of school shootings, it’s more important than ever to screen students for weapons. The same goes for office buildings, work sites, government buildings and even entertainment venues, like movie theaters.

Fortunately, there are a range of Artificial Intelligence (AI) based screening tools that can scan for weapons without the bulk or inconvenience of a metal detector.

What digital screening tools are available?

There are currently two types of AI-based weapons screening technology on the market: hybrid detection systems that integrate AI with cameras, and scanning systems. Each solution has both benefits and drawbacks.

Hybrid detection systems

A hybrid weapons detection system is an AI analytics platform that is paired with an organization’s existing security cameras. Using a database of weapons, the AI is programmed to visually recognize weapons.

One of the main benefits of this type of system is the ability to “see” the weapon as soon as it’s produced. In most shootings, weapons are brandished before shots are fired. A hybrid system allows security to respond quickly and potentially engage before anyone is hurt or killed, and when used in conjunction with facial recognition technologies, this system can also help administrators identify people who aren’t supposed to be on site. You also don’t have to funnel people through one or two entrances. Because cameras are set up in common areas, you’re likely to catch an incident outside the school or in the halls, no matter which door they used to enter the building.

Unfortunately the drawback is that the cameras aren’t able to identify concealed weapons, so a student with a weapon under their coat won’t be flagged until the gun is pulled out. It may also be difficult or expensive to put cameras in every classroom or area in which a gun might be brandished.

Weapon scanning technology

Scanning technology is a modular unit that scans people for weapons or weapon components without a camera. The system may not even be visible to those who are being scanned; a scanner might be hidden behind a wall panel near an entrance, for example.

The benefits of scanning technology is that it is passive, but powerful: the scanner can distinguish between threatening and non-threatening objects, can scan multiple people at once, and its sensitivity can be adjusted. Because it's fairly easy to set up and use, you don’t need much training or specialized staff to run the unit; the scanner alerts an app when it finds a threat.

This plays into the drawback, however. Scanners are much more likely to identify a real threat than cameras or metal detectors, so if you have reduced your security presence to implement scanning technology, your remaining team should be trained in response to an active threat. .

Technology is a force multiplier, not a force replacer

Using new security solutions does not mean your organization can eliminate security personnel. You still need procedures and personnel in place, although you don’t need as large a team as you did when you were using other methods..

Thinking about adding weapons detection to your organization? Circadian Risk can help you make decisions about what systems work best for your organization. Contact us to talk to an expert about your security needs.

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