ShotSpotter changes its identity and its business

Oct. 20, 2011 -- Automated gunshot detection and location company ShotSpotter changed its name today to SST as part of an overall rebranding. Moving forward, "ShotSpotter" will now only refer to SST's product line-up for gunfire detection and pinpoint of those shots fired. At the same time, the company is rolling out a new subscription-based model for its gunshot detection analysis services that company CEO Ralph Clark says will allow them to take the technology to smaller customers.

According to Clark, the technology behind the ShotSpotter gunfire detection and location analytics isn’t really changing; in fact he says "it's really good" and that they only expect to see incremental improvements in the analytics.

What's changed, he said, is that the company is moving to a cloud computing model where acoustical gunshot sensors no longer push data back to a city's server where the verification and location analysis occurs. Instead, that data is fed back to SST's network operations center via hosting on a secure cloud run by Intrado (a 9-1-1 technology solutions provider from Longmont, Colo.). SST handles the analysis at its operations center, and then feeds the analyzed data back out to the municipality so the city can dispatch officers to the area.

The hosted model is branded of ShotSpotter Flex -- the firm's newest offering. It's sold on annual basis and delivered as an operational expenditure (op-ex) rather than the capital expenditure (cap-ex) model that was previously used.

"Customers don't have the expense of the server and have to own the networking. We've taken the friction out of the model."

To make the model work, Clark and his team negotiated special wireless cellular carrier rates for machine to machine (M2M) communications. It was a move that made the wireless acoustical gunshot sensor network more affordable to run and was key to building the ShotSpotter Flex software-as-a-service model.

In addition to the Flex version, SST is also unveiling a gunshot detection package for critical infrastructure and corporate locations that have a smaller area than a municipality would typically require. There is also ShotSpotter SpecialOps, a model that sets up a tactical, portable ShotSpotter solution for short-term needs.

ShotSpotter OnSite, the traditional technology delivery model where the customer actually owns the license for the software, manages the server and owns the sensors, is still available, but Clark said that it would be rare that municipalities would want to "own" the system the way the OnSite model allows. It is primarily designed for out-of-the country deployments.

On the services side, SST is also adding the ShotSpotter Qualified Alerts Service, which puts listening specialists who can analyze gunfire audio even better than computers can. "We have people who are trained acoustically to identify those gunshots," said Clark. "They can illicit some details that a lesser trained person might not catch. It's powerful in a multi-shooter situation. Not only do you want to know where the gunshots are happening [which the automated system provides], but you would want to know that it appears to be two shooters, or that there probably is a large caliber gun or an automatic weapons. That shapes your officer response profile dramatically."

The reason behind all the new products is simple, said Clark. It's because there's a problem in America's cities.

"People don't call in when they hear a gun; maybe 20 percent of times people call in the gunfire. But even when they do, oftentimes the dispatcher doesn't know where to dispatch. They're told 'East of my house.' That can mean almost anything."

Clark said he wants to change that by automating the reports.

"Our goal is to reduce gun homicides. We want to make a difference and have an impact."