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Redmond's Amrelitech takes security to the next level with Microsoft's Kinect

Amrelitech CEO Atul Hirpara (right) shows Congressman Dave Reichert different features of the Watch N Inform security system. - Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter
Amrelitech CEO Atul Hirpara (right) shows Congressman Dave Reichert different features of the Watch N Inform security system.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

While Kinect was originally developed for the Xbox 360 as an advancement in the gaming industry, there are other possible functions it could be used for, such as keeping people safe.

Amreli Technology Solutions (Amrelitech) has done just that. Utilizing the Microsoft Corp. console's motion-sensing technology and more, the Redmond-based IT services and solutions company has developed a security system that can read human behavior and alert the appropriate authorities in the case of an emergency if and when needed.

With this ability as well as the ability to recognize certain verbal cues, Amrelitech's Watch N Inform security system can predict if and when a dangerous situation might occur.

The idea came from Amrelitech CEO Atul Hirpara, who was prompted after the 2011 bombings in his native home of Mumbai, India. Hirpara thought there should be a way for technology to detect suspicious behavior and prompt authorities to take action before things escalate.

The former Microsoft employee explained that with Watch N Inform, Kinect motion sensors can detect an individual or individuals acting in a threatening or threatened manner — such as holding up a gun or holding their hands up during a stick up — and send an alert to law enforcement or a private security firm (whichever has been programmed into the system). The sensors can also detect suspicious behavior such as an individual placing a bag or package on the ground and then leaving it.

Watch N Inform system will also cue up a video so they can see what is going on inside or outside a building, giving agencies a better idea of what they are about to go into as well as allowing them time to strategize and formulate a plan. Also, authorities are alerted about a situation while it is happening, which allows them to act quicker, rather than having to wait for a 911 call.

"If we can save two minutes, we can save lives," Hirpara said.

Congressman Dave Reichert of the 8th Congressional District, who visited Amrelitech on Monday to learn about Watch N Inform, agreed. As a former King County Sheriff — who was a member of the Green River Task Force and was sheriff when Gary Ridgway was identified as the Green River killer in 2001 — he said it is important to move fast in dangerous situations such as one with an active shooter, as those individuals can act fast.

Watch N Inform was developed as the result of a partnership between Amrelitech and Microsoft through the latter's incubator, Microsoft Garage, which was designed to encourage the development of innovative projects. Hirpara said the Garage is usually limited to Microsoft employees, but they made an exception in Amrelitech's case.

Fernando Hernandez, supplier diversity director at Microsoft, said in addition to alerting authorities of a situation, the video component of Watch N Inform also allows officers to figure out ways to minimize risks to all those involved.

Hirpara said Watch N Inform could also be used to alert people within a building of medical emergencies taking place near their location. For example, if someone fell down the stairs, Watch N Inform would catch that and then notify an individual or individuals nearby that there had been some sort of accident.

With his background in law enforcement, Reichert shared examples of when Watch N Inform could have been useful for him, including one time when a woman had fallen in her home and hit a panic alarm to alert 911. Reichert said they didn't know what had happened, so they had multiple squad cars approach the house and they snuck in as they thought it could be a dangerous situation rather than a medical emergency.

"It can be useful in that sort of scenario," Reichert said about Watch N Inform.

During his visit, the congressman raised the issue of privacy and whether Watch N Inform violates people's rights. He was told that the security system is passive, meaning the sensors are always on, but the cameras are only turned on when something has been detected.

Reichert also suggested agencies and organizations such as the congressional National Security Solutions Group and Law Enforcement Caucus for Hirpara and his team to meet with and present Watch N Inform. In addition, Reichert offered to help facilitate such meetings.

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