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Heat Tracker: How Wearables Could Detect Gunshots

A new study says that cheap wearables could help monitor people who might illegally use firearms.
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Smart writstbands like the Fitbit and Jawbone can track everything from steps taken to someone's heart rate. Now a researcher has come up with a new use for the technology: detecting gun shots. Discharging a gun creates a unique motion that can be recorded with accelerometers like the ones found in smartphones and wearables, according to a recent study from Charles Loeffler, an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. Loeffler retrieved accelerometer data from people firing guns, going about their normal lives, and working at construction jobs. It turns out that he could identify a gunshot from other actions 99.4 percent of the time. This technology could help law enforcement cut down on gun violence by tracking when guns are fired by people on parole or probation, possibly combined with a device similar to the GPS bracelets already in use around the country. “I see a clear benefit in approaches like this,” Loeffler told NBC News, noting that he is aware of the civil liberties implications and the possibility of wasted tax dollars.



— Keith Wagstaff