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Smartphone system determines source of gunfire

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April 26, 2013

A new smartphone-based system is able to triangulate the approximate whereabouts of sniper...

A new smartphone-based system is able to triangulate the approximate whereabouts of snipers

If you were out on the street and suddenly heard sniper fire, you would no doubt react by ducking for cover. The problem is, it’s not always obvious which direction the sound is coming from – crouching behind a certain object might shield you from the bullets, but it also might display you nicely in the shooter’s crosshairs. That’s why a team of computer engineers from Nashville’s Vanderbilt University have developed a smartphone-based system, that determines the location at which the gunshots originated.

The system is based on one developed six years ago, by a team led by Prof. Akos Ledeczi. In that setup, microphone-equipped modules located in the helmets of several soldiers work together to create a linked wireless network.

Each module registers the initial muzzle blast of a shot, followed by the shockwaves that the bullet creates as it travels through the air. A central microprocessor uses a highly-precise clock to compare the times at which the various microphones register those sounds. By doing so, and by knowing the location of each of the modules, it can triangulate the approximate location of the shooter.

Ledeczi and company’s new system works in the same way, except instead of modules mounted on army helmets, it utilizes modules mounted on smartphones. Because multiple phones are required, the system is intended for use by groups such as security teams or police forces.

Each module is “about the size of a deck of cards” and contains microphones, along with the electronics necessary to process the gunshot audio, log its time, and then relay that data to the phone via Bluetooth. The group members’ phones then communicate with one another, comparing the times at which they registered the shots, and thus determining the whereabouts of the sniper.

In fact, there are two versions of the new system. One of those requires at least six modules, each one equipped with a single microphone. Using both the muzzle blast and shock wave data, it is able to fairly accurately determine a location. The other version only requires two modules, each one sporting four microphones. It uses just the muzzle blast audio, although it also only provides a rough estimate of location.

Source: Vanderbilt University

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
4 Comments

Hell of a commentary on "modern" life. Especially here in well-armed Amerika.

Ed Campbell
27th April, 2013 @ 05:04 am PDT

Is the right to own and carry a sniper fire location device guaranteed under the 2nd amendment?

duh3000
30th April, 2013 @ 02:44 pm PDT

One step more towards total Warfare Domination...

Now it will be wise to keep this device reserved to our military...but nowadays is merely impossible...so next step will be trying to develop something that blocks an enemy trying to use it against Us???

Px Depot
22nd May, 2013 @ 07:33 am PDT

Um, wow. Seriously? How many of us have ever been under sniper fire back home and thought "I could really use an app to determine the firer's direction"?

You want to screw up its readings? Clap really loudly over one of the sensor!

It's amazing what smart phones can do, but this is about as useful as a hingeless see-saw.

Doerpfeld
11th June, 2013 @ 12:31 am PDT
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