Liberty Hill ISD to use AI to stop security threats

Video of a gunman being captured was shown during a demonstration that took place Wednesday near Florence. The man was caught after an artificial intelligence computer system identified him as a threat. 

The demonstration was put on by SparkCognition, an Austin tech company. Marketing Director Steven Gold led a discussion, at the company testing facility near Florence for a group of school administrators and security analysts.

"I don’t think there is a single silver bullet, but I think this is one of the key instruments in the toolbox," said Gold.

The artificial intelligence system taps into existing school security cameras. It learns to recognize different vehicles arriving at campus. It can identify students and staff. Alerts are sent out for disturbances, people in distress, and when doors are left open. It can also recognize weapons, all in real time.

"What’s changed now, this paradigm shift, is being able to act in the moment with that data in hand, and knowing what to do about it," said Gold.

During the demonstration, the system tracked a man with a suspicious bag going into a building. When the computer determined he had a weapon it set off an alarm. But Gold pointed out it can do more than that.

"So, if you have access control to all the doors, they can be locked simultaneously, electronically, the AI can actually go ahead and trigger that happening without waiting for the human to push a button," said Gold.

Travis Motal, Director of Secondary Education at Liberty Hill ISD, was a featured speaker at the demonstration

"Our Superintendent challenged us, after Uvalde happened in May, what are we doing for school safety," said Motal.

FOX 7 was told Liberty Hill ISD recently spent about $3 million on several security upgrades. That includes being the first in Texas to purchase the AI system.

"It’s one of those futuristic things, when they first brought it to you, wow, AI can really do this," said Motal.

All the schools in Liberty Hill ISD should be online with AI by February.

"I can’t possibly have someone at every spot, every time looking at everything. I can’t have someone looking at every video camera, constantly 24 hours a day. This supplements all the other things we have," said Motal.

This smart computer system comes with its own Air Force. These are storage containers and launch pads for drones. They are placed around the campuses. The drones fly pre-set flight plans and transmit live video images. School districts pay a monthly fee for this system.

"For a standard security bundle, you are starting about $5,000 a month," said Gold.

Larger school districts can expect to pay 3 to 5 times more. Set up and training can take less than a month.