Athena Security raises $5.5M to spot weapons with AI

by Brian Nordli
June 13, 2019
Athena Security
Image via athena security

Security cameras aren’t doing enough.

That’s the realization entrepreneurs Chris Ciabarra and Lisa Falzone had as they watched mass shootings repeatedly pop up in the news. Those cameras, set up for people’s protection, were only used to investigate crimes after the fact.

Working with a team distributed around the world, Ciabarra and Falzone trained an AI algorithm to detect guns and notify people before a shooting occurred. From that technology came Athena Security.

Based in Austin, the company makes an AI platform that integrates with security cameras and has since been adopted by schools, places of worship and Fortune 500 companies. And on Thursday, Athena Security announced the close a $5.5 million seed round to fuel its crime-stopping efforts.

If someone walks into a school or business with a handgun, or in a parking lot, we can detect that from the cameras outside and alert people.”

The round will help the company support a market with a high need for proactive security cameras, Ciabarra said.

“We got into schools, and then we started getting calls from Fortune 500 companies,” said Ciabarra, who is Athena Security’s CTO. “We realized this is bigger than we thought.”

To create their crime-alerting AI tool, Ciabarra said they trained the algorithm on thousands of videos simulating weapon-related activities in parks, businesses, malls, schools and any other public places.

The goal was to create an AI that could scan an area and detect a weapon quickly and accurately with no facial analysis or profiling in order to protect people’s privacy. The software continues to learn on the job and can identify a weapon with 99 percent accuracy, according to the company.

Customers can integrate Athena Security’s platform into their existing security camera feeds and set their detection parameters. They can have the system look for any weapon, with the option of whether or not to raise red flags for holstered guns.

Once the algorithm spots a weapon, it can be set to immediately notify emergency responders, trigger an alarm, send a feed to the user’s phone and even initiate preventative mechanisms like a spray to stop the gunman, Ciabarra said.  

“If someone walks into a school or business with a handgun, or [is walking across] a parking lot, we can detect that from the cameras outside and alert people,” Ciabarra said. “We can also alert people through speakers and announce that police are coming.”   

With this round, the company plans to grow from about 30 people to 40 in the next few months. Athena’s team also wants to add thermal and concealed weapon detection for customers, and they have plans to expand the product internationally.

In the next two years, Ciabarra said they plan to scale up to about 200 people.

“We’re just looking to help save lives and bring people on interested in doing that,” Ciabarra said.

Pathfinder led the round, with 40 individual angel investors joining them.

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