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News for U: AI Gun Detection in Utah Schools

Welcome to News for U! Today, Giovanni discusses ZeroEyes’ new AI gun detection software and how the Utah State Board of Education plans to implement it in schools across Utah.
Sydney Stam
(Graphic by Sydney Stam | The Daily Utah Chronicle)
Welcome to News For U! In this episode, Giovanni discusses ZeroEye’s new AI gun detection software and how the Utah State Board of Education is implementing it in schools across Utah.
Welcome to News for U! Today, Giovanni discusses ZeroEyes’ new AI gun detection software and how the Utah State Board of Education plans to implement it in schools across Utah.


Emma: Hello and welcome back to News for U. I’m your host Emma Ratkovic, joined by our producers Graham Jones and Eugene Lyons. On this episode of the podcast, we are going to discuss a new AI gun detecting software that may be entering K-12 schools in Utah. News writer Giovanni Radtke has joined us today to discuss his recent story published in the Chrony. Hi, Giovanni, thank you for joining us on the podcast today.

Giovanni: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Emma: So can you introduce yourself and explain what you do for the Chrony?

Giovanni: Oh, yes. So I’m a I’m a junior at the U. I’m studying journalism. And I am a news writer for the Chrony. I just try to write about local events and what’s going on around in Utah.

Emma: Very nice. In your story, you write that the Utah State Board of Education has set grant applications for artificial intelligence gun detection to K-12 schools throughout the state. What is the Utah State Board of Education and what are grant applications?

Giovanni: So the Utah State Board of Education is an elected administrative body in the state and they’re in charge of like the general supervision and control of K-12 schools in Utah, and the board recently signed a contract for grant applications to schools where they will apply for funding to install this new technology.

Emma: Your article mentions Rhett Larsen a few times. Who is he, and what is his relationship to the Utah State Board of Education and the AI software in discussion?

Giovanni: So, Rhett Larsen is the school security specialist for the Board of Education, and he’s … kind of … the one that’s kind of overseeing the installation of the security, the technology itself into the schools.

Emma: Giovanni, can you explain what exactly AI software is and how it works?

Giovanni: Well, it’s an add-on to like existing security cameras. And it basically just takes snapshots every few seconds looking for specific — anything that might look like a holstered weapon of some sort, and it sends that information to someone that may confirm it if it’s a false positive or a negative.

Emma: And then who created the software, and who will be distributing it to Utah schools?

Giovanni: So the technology is created by a company called ZeroEyes, and it is being distributed by a Utah-based company called AEGIX Global, which specializes in emergency response safety.

Emma: And how is the Utah State Board of Education spreading information about the software to schools?

Giovanni: So they — they started the grant application process [at the] start of the year, and they have webinars with the company AEGIX that kind of talked with school officials to help them understand the technology and answer any sort of questions they may have as they, you know, go through the process of applying the AI technology in their classrooms.

Emma: And how much would it cost to implement this technology in schools and who would supply the funding?

Giovanni: So the legislature recently approved … $3 million to be allocated for the installation of the technology, and it just covers up to, I think, about like four cameras per school. And it’s just about the initial licensing of the technology, and I think it lasts until about 2025. After that, local lawmakers will kind of have to negotiate for their funding. But I think specifically for any specific camera, I think it’s something over about $5,000 per camera, per year, as for the software … but I’m not entirely sure, I’d have to double check on that. But that’s just like how it is right now. It’s just kind of like the starting phase of just installing everything.

Emma: And then, although individual schools are free to experiment with this new AI technology, Larsen noted that this is not a requirement in the state of Utah. Have schools decided to move forward with this technology, and how is this software going to function in student’s day-to-day lives?

Giovanni: So yeah, I believe the grant process has been fulfilled recently. I’m not entirely sure of which specific schools have applied, but I do know that they are now installing the technology itself. In terms of the day-to-day for students, it shouldn’t really make much of a difference. It’s kind of just like an add-on to security cameras, for what they already have. So it shouldn’t really impact their day-to-day lives as they go through their class.

Emma: And has there been any pushback from the Utah community, specifically parents and students?

Giovanni: Yeah, that’s a good question. But as far as I’m aware, there hasn’t been any pushback at the moment. Like, as, as it may have been mentioned, the grant application itself is completely voluntary. So just the districts themselves decide if they want to install it. And from my knowledge, there hasn’t been any sort of pushback.

Emma: And given that a gun or a weapon is detected in the software, what steps are taken?

Giovanni: If the technology gets a snapshot of any specific thing that may look like a firearm, it sends it to a centralized location of AEGIX Global, where their first responder team, you know, tries to verify whether or not it actually is a gun. If it is a gun, then they send that information over to local police force and everyone else to respond to the threat. Like it’s 24/7, they say, and it takes about — I think they said three to five seconds, I think ZeroEyes claims that it takes to really identify if it’s a weapon.

Emma: And is this software only based in Utah, or are other states using it as well?

Giovanni: So there are other states that are using it already. And I think most recently, I believe it was Arkansas has applied the technology in their schools. And I believe Missouri and Wisconsin are currently in debates of whether or not they want to install ZeroEyes technology into their schools at the moment. But it’s definitely expanding nationwide at the moment, from what I can tell.

Emma: Has the idea of putting the software in schools and making it mandatory for all schools been discussed?

Giovanni: No, not at the moment. Like right now, the thing is, it’s supposed to be voluntary. The funds only last essentially for about a year. And then at that point, the schools negotiate with their local lawmakers to see if they want to continue with the program or not. So in a way, it’s almost like a pilot program for the schools to see if it’s actually something that they want.

Emma: And is there any talk about expanding this technology to universities or other public spaces in Utah?

Giovanni: Well, the most recent [legislative session] I think just ended right now. And from what I can tell, there has not been any discussions for expanding it to universities or other public areas at the moment. Right now, it’s … the only thing that’s really been done is with K-12 schools.

Emma: And what safety effects will this new technology have on next generations?

Giovanni: Well, the interesting thing is, like, as I research it, I’ve — I’m not entirely sure how effective the technology itself is at the moment. But it’s definitely from the looks of it, it’s going to have a huge impact as we go along. Whether or not it’s going to stop anything, I think we’ll probably know from future studies. At the moment, it just seems we’re like in the starting process of applying this new technology in schools.

Emma: And do you think this is the beginning of a nationwide movement based on the knowledge you have about the software?

Giovanni: Yeah. Yes. As I was alluding to, with the way it’s expanding in schools, it seems to definitely be something that’s going to just become more and more — be more prominent in schools as we go along.

Emma: Do you have any final thoughts or comments, Giovanni?

Giovanni: What I think with this technology that I think is pretty interesting is … I think, what I’m interested in thinking about is more like false positives, like how common are they or not. They don’t really release that information that I’m aware of. There have been like instances of it occurring. But at the moment, I’m just very curious to see how effective the software will be in schools as a way of mitigating threats of gun violence.

Emma: Thank you so much for joining us on this episode, Giovanni.

Giovanni: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Emma: I’m your host, Emma Ratkovic. And thank you for tuning in to this episode of News for U. Make sure to stay tuned for weekly episodes.


Producer: Eugene Lyons — [email protected] | @LinkJayman

Host: Emma Ratkovic — [email protected]  | @eratkovic_news

Guest: Giovanni Radtke [email protected]| @GiovanniRadtke

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About the Contributors
Emma Ratkovic
Emma Ratkovic, News For U host
Emma is from Park City and is studying journalism and Spanish. She was an investigative writer for a year before doing full-time podcasting for the News For U and Uncovered Podcasts. She has also done work for the Park City Prospector, TownLift, and the University of Utah's Humanities Radio. She also runs an independent podcast called What's The Dilemma, which is available on most streaming platforms. She loves writing, producing, traveling, music, exercise, and hiking through the mountains of beautiful Utah.
Giovanni Radtke
Giovanni Radtke, Assistant News Editor
Giovanni Radtke is a junior at the U with an associate degree in journalism and digital media from Salt Lake Community College. He is majoring in communications with an emphasis in journalism. Giovanni is a self-proclaimed cinephile who loves traveling and reading history books.
Graham Jones
Graham Jones, Assistant Arts Editor
(he/him) Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Graham Jones grew up with a deep passion for cinema and writing. Although he initially moved to Utah study film, Graham is currently a Communication major with an emphasis in journalism. Beyond movies, he loves a wide range of musical artists including the Talking Heads and Nine Inch Nails. Graham is always on the lookout for a new chatting partner, valuing a good conversation above all else.
Sydney Stam
Sydney Stam, Design Director
Sydney Stam began at the Daily Utah Chronicle as a designer and illustrator in 2020 and is now currently the Design Director. She is pursuing her degree in graphic design with a minor in business at the University of Utah. Sydney grew up in Salt Lake City and loves being surrounded by the mountains. In her free time she enjoys kayaking, taking photos, hiking and drawing.

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