‘Lone wolf’ terrorism could face extinction thanks to new computer software
Karthik, an undergraduate student at National Institute of Technology in Hamirpur in India, has joined Associate Professor Andrew Park this summer for a 12-week Mitacs Globalink research internship. He’s helping to develop an algorithm that can accurately and precisely identify the most likely location of a potential sniper attack on a public gathering.
When the researchers apply the algorithm into simulation software, the result could help law enforcement professionals develop proactive strategies that reduce the likelihood of an attack.
“If a city is holding a large music concert, parade, or another public event, we can analyse the surroundings and predict where the lone wolf [terrorist] might be located,” says Professor Park. The algorithm calculates shooting distance, views, and angles around an event site to isolate not only the most likely building but also the optimal floor of that building from which an attack could take place.
The research was inspired by a terrorist attack on a music festival in Las Vegas, U.S., in October 2017.
Although organizers and law enforcement officials practice their response to potential emergencies for big events, the complex nature and large venues used for these gatherings can make predicting threats a challenge.
“There are only a limited number of police officers available so [police] can’t send them everywhere. With our tool, they will know where to place security personnel to be as effective as possible,” says Professor Park.
Knowing the likeliest location for an attack can help police direct resources and surveillance where it can best avert a crisis.
Karthik’s algorithm simulates a scenario where a terrorist attack could occur such as a concert or festival where the target is relatively stationary or static. Down the line, they hope to advance the software to create dynamic simulations where the attacker’s target might move, such as in a motorcade or parade.
Karthik is proud to contribute to important research that could keep public venues safe. “Canadians are so friendly,” he says. “I’ve already made several new friends in the lab and I feel really blessed to be here.”
For Professor Park, hosting Karthik is an opportunity to collaborate with top talent that brings new perspectives to his work.
“The benefit of getting to work with global students who are at the top of their class is that they are extremely motivated to learn and bring a unique perspective to the table,” he says.
“Not only do [the students] contribute their expertise to further our research efforts, but they also become international ambassadors of the great innovation that’s taking place here in Canada and often consider returning here for their graduate studies.”
Mitacs would like to thank the Government of Canada, along with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of Manitoba, and the Government of Quebec for their support of the Globalink Research Internship program. In addition, Mitacs is pleased to work with the following international partners to support Globalink: Universities Australia; Brazil’s Universidade de São Paulo; China Scholarship Council; Campus France; German Academic Exchange Service; Mexico’s Government of the State of Guanajuato, EDUCAFIN, and Tecnológico de Monterrey; Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche scientifique, des Technologies de l'Information et de la Communication de la Tunisie and Mission universitaire de Tunisie en Amérique du Nord; and Ukrainian-Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko.
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