Study demonstrates wearable sensors to detect firearm use

September 3, 2014

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania demonstrates that wearable sensors could one day transform the correctional system by tracking gun use by community-based offenders, who account for a disproportionate share of fatal and non-fatal shootings.

Currently, detecting and deterring this type of crime can be challenging in the absence of reliable evidence that a particular community-supervised offender illegally used a firearm.

In the study, published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, Charles Loeffler, an assistant professor of criminology at Penn, demonstrates the feasibility of using low-cost, wearable inertial sensors to detect firearm usage.

To conduct the study, Loeffler used sensors similar to those found in fitness trackers to recognize and other signals corresponding to firearm use. Research participants included officers from the Penn Police Department, construction workers and individuals engaged in routine daily activities.

The resulting sensor data was used to train a detection algorithm that achieved more than 99 percent accuracy in classifying individual gunshots, demonstrating that firearm use can be reliably distinguished from a range of potentially confusable human activities.

"It turns out that gunshots are highly distinctive events when viewed from the perspective of the human wrist," Loeffler said. "The wrist experiences a near instantaneous blast wave that is closely followed by the recoil impulse. The entire event is over in a fraction of a second.

"This wearable sensor technology offers criminal-justice practitioners a potential alternative to existing monitoring systems that were not specifically designed to detect individual firearm usage," Loeffler said. "If integrated sensibly into existing community-supervision systems, it could enhance the ability of correctional authorities to deter and or detect firearm use while allowing community-supervised populations to experience less onerous conditions of release."

Explore further: Lax gun ownership laws could impact ability of high-risk individuals to purchase firearms

Related Stories

Team developing wearable tech for disease monitoring

August 6, 2014

A new wearable vapor sensor being developed at the University of Michigan could one day offer continuous disease monitoring for patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia or lung disease.

Recommended for you

Internet giants race to faster mobile news apps

October 4, 2015

US tech giants are turning to the news in their competition for mobile users, developing new, faster ways to deliver content, but the benefits for struggling media outlets remain unclear.

Radio frequency 'harvesting' tech unveiled in UK

September 30, 2015

An energy harvesting technology that its developers say will be able to turn ambient radio frequency waves into usable electricity to charge low power devices was unveiled in London on Wednesday.

Professors say US has fallen behind on offshore wind power

September 29, 2015

University of Delaware faculty from the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), the College of Engineering and the Alfred Lerner School of Business and Economics say that the U.S. has fallen behind in offshore wind ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.