Scottsdale-based Defendry is using technology to identify and reduce the number of mass shootings across the country. These kinds of tragedies were once fairly rare, but now there’s a news alert much too often about a gunman shooting up a school, church, movie theater or grocery store.
This year, at least 104 mass shootings have already occurred in 29 states plus Washington, D.C., according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group that tracks gun violence in the U.S. This is almost 50 more than the number of mass shootings around this time in 2020. More than 120 people have been killed and at least 380 people have been injured so far.
The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as a single incident where four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter.
Each incident adds more fuel to the fire in the debate about gun control and the country remains at a stalemate. But Pat Sullivan, Defendry founder and CEO, says that regardless of what eventually happens in the gun control debate, there are still 500 million guns in the market that will never be able to be confiscated and can get in the hands of a dangerous person fairly easily.
“I don’t know that it’s going to get any better,” Sullivan says. “Most people I talk with believe it’s going to get worse.”
Sullivan wants to provide another alternative. He wants to take advantage of as many technologies as possible to stop active shooters before they become active shooters.
How does Defendry work?
Sullivan and his team of 14 people have developed artificial intelligence software that is able to detect weapons (not just guns), which will then lock the doors of a building under siege and then call the police.
Defendry’s proprietary AI software AI software can detect threats including guns, masks, & intruders or people banned from the facility. The company is also working on infrared technology will be able to detect knives, machetes, and bombs.The Defendry team has been working on the AI since January 2018, taking video of hundreds and hundreds of different weapons in different backgrounds in order to use machine learning to train the software to recognize the shapes. Sullivan says the accuracy is now 99.99%.
But they don’t yet have a perfect solution for identifying who’s legally carrying a concealed weapon and who intends to use it for murder. The best solution, Sullivan says, would be for everyone to walk through scanners like at airports. But since that isn’t really possible, their current solution is to utilize another technology — infrared technology — to analyze thermal characteristics to help tell the difference. Defendry will bring this to market in the next two months.
Defendry also plans to utilize drones to be the first responders on the scene, which Sullivan says is “absolutely possible.” These drones would be able to bypass the 911 operator to alert the police, provide a more exact location of the incident and send photos of the scene so police don’t have to gather basic information when they arrive. But Sullivan acknowledges that this goal is a little “edgy.” Now, people are unsettled by drones and will need some time to get used to the idea. The company launched the Defendry Aerial Platform in December 2020.
Sullivan says they plan to use every kind of technology that could be useful to make up the “Defendry Hub,” which would be a complete package of software to allow companies, schools and churches to protect themselves against active shooters.
Defendry past and present
Before founding Defendry in 2018, Sullivan was in the software business for more than 35 years. He developed a software that could do mass communication and alerts, but as Sullivan became more and more unsettled by the increasing number of mass shootings, he decided to repurpose the software to try to address the problem.
Sullivan began looking for someone who could help him develop the AI piece of his idea. He eventually found Sean Huver, an AI expert who had already built an AI platform that could recognize weapons. Sullivan acquired Huver’s platform and the two teamed up.
The company isn’t currently profitable, but Sullivan is hopeful. Before the pandemic, the company had 6 installations fully integrated and in use, but then things completely halted as people stopped going to places that would need to be secured. Business has picked back up now and Sullivan says it’s “entirely possible that we could be profitable in the next 12 months.”
The company is backed by a number of private investors, both inside and outside Arizona, though Sullivan won’t provide specific names. He also won’t reveal how much they are backed by, but he did say the company has a “multimillion dollar” fund.
Sullivan wouldn’t reveal the cost of the software, either. But, he says, it’s less on average than paying a $15/hour security guard. And it’s much less than the cost of the human lives that might be lost, he says. Ultimately, his goal is that insurance companies will require businesses to install technology like this.
It may take some time, but Sullivan believes that the Defendry technology and drones will be accepted and even trusted.
In the meantime, the Defendry team follows this mantra:
“If we only save one life, it’ll all be worth it.”