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A Prince George’s County startup is using AI to prevent school shootings

Wave Welcome, from former county CIO Vennard Wright, just released its Per Vista product to track firearms.

An event launching Wave Welcome's PerVista. (Courtesy photo)

Those familiar with Prince George’s County might remember Vennard Wright, the county’s chief information officer (CIO) from 2010 to 2016.

Wright, who was also previously the director of technology for Hillary Clinton during her Senate re-election and the CIO at IronBow, has since struck out with his own company. National Harbor, Maryland’s Wave Welcome, which was founded in 2020, “leverages technology to solve real-world use cases,” according to its creator.

This week, the company released its new platform, PerVista, which aims to lower gun violence with the help of technology. The idea for the platform, Wright said, emerged after a high-profile case in the county where three teenagers ran onto a bus and attempted to shoot a Prince George’s County Public Schools student.

“It really came from the challenge that exists here in Prince George’s County,” Wright told Technical.ly.

Wave Welcome’s PerVista uses AI to analyze video streams and detect firearms in real time. Leveraging AWS, the cloud-hosted platform tracks surveillance camera streams frame-by-frame against a database of firearms. If anything matches, it triggers an alert, sends the video clip to public safety officials and sends a text to security guards and others in the building. In addition to automatically notifying public safety officials for dispatch, PerVista also deploys a drone to verify what the software thinks it found, known as WatchWing.

With active shooter alerts happening more often, Wright said he wanted to find a way to increase the likelihood of preventing such incidents. He started by looking to solve some of the most common issues, one of which was tracking security cameras.

“A lot of times, there is a security guard or a school resource officer who’s on site but they’re not really paying attention to the cameras,” Wright said.

Wave Welcome began working on the product about six months ago. One of the tools’ features that Wright is the most proud of is the ability to detect, with 100% certainty, long guns. The primary use cases for school incidents, he said, feature long guns — a group that includes AR-15s.

So far, PerVista only alerts public safety and school officials, but Wright is open to adding the ability to contact parents. PerVista is primarily software-based, but the company is also selling the cameras and the drones, which Wright wants to manufacture internally.

Adding this manufacturing pipeline, he thinks, is an opportunity for Prince George’s County. The county lost the designation of the richest majority-Black county in the US, and Wright thinks that by focusing on technology as its preferred industry, Prince George’s can gain it back. He hopes that adding a career pipeline through Wave Welcome can help with this.

So far, the company has an MOU in place with a local charter school and signed contracts with some existing clients. As PerVista grows and develops, though, Wright has one central idea to maintain.

“I do want to make sure that we are reducing the number and severity of school shootings,” Wright said. “If we can prevent the school shootings, great, but certainly if we don’t, we’d like to make sure that there’s less of an impact.”

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