Photo Credit: Ashlesha Nesarikar

Local UT Dallas student wins smart cities competition using AI to address school shootings

When it comes to taking action in the wake of recent school shootings across the country, UT Dallas student and Founder/President Ashlesha Nesarikar is putting her money where her mouth is. One of two recent winners of Richardson’s recent U.S. Ignite Smart Gigabit Cities Application Development Challenge, her proposal featured a smartphone app called iNotify, which utilizes AI technology to provide real-time alerts and ongoing updates to authorities, students and staff whenever its AI agent detects, by scanning video footage, an individual with a weapon at a school. The winners each received $10,000 for developing applications that utilize gigabit bandwidth and/or low latency solutions to solve community issues.

When asked about her background and how she ended up creating this technology, Ashlesha told Launch DFW that she’s always been into math and science, and began tinkering with AI technology creating her own projects at home. “My first project was actually inspired by my dog; one day he stole a piece of raw chicken off the counter when we weren’t there and so my sister and I figured that we needed a way to monitor and track his activity when we weren’t home,” she said. With the help of her father Abhijit Nesarikar, who has 20+ years in the industry, they set up some sensors and created a system that effectively helped them track their dog’s movements and activity.

Following the success of this homegrown project, they decided to look into patents and see if one existed for the technology they had just created. After some searching it turned out there wasn’t, at least not for their specific application/use of the technology which addresses some needs that are not currently met with AI today. They’ve since filed for a non-provisional patent, and are currently waiting to hear back on it.

Fast-forward to the competition, where Ashlesha is using her growing knowledge base to apply the technology to an even greater cause. To answer to the challenge of this specific competition, she and her team from Plano Intelligence Inc. employed the use of AI specifically for weapons detection. She cited some of the shootings that have taken place a little closer to home, most specifically at UT Austin this time last year, as a source for her inspiration in using the technology in this way. Despite the officers quick response and arrest of the suspect in that particular incident, she started to wonder if the application of this technology could help prevent some of these tragedies by identifying threats sooner. In instances such as the Parkland shooting, where there was a miscommunication and significant delay in the video feed that officers were using to try and locate the suspect, this technology might make a big difference. iNotify would help solve or avoid some of these problems by providing real-time alerts and ongoing updates to authorities, students and staff whenever it detects a weapon on an individual on the premises. While other systems might exist for weapons identification, theirs adds another dimension of context in order to provide the meaning of the object so it can prevent false positives. The day Ashlesha pitched their proposal was unfortunately the same day that the Parkland shooting happened, and in response her and her team have dedicated this application to the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

For those focused on the tech, Ashlesha says the first version of the application will launch at the end of August. They have a team of developers currently working on the front end to build out the user interface, while Ashlesha works alongside her father (VP of Plano Intelligence Inc. and co-author of the patent) on the AI on the back end. They’re waiting to hear back on the patent, and are hoping to find seed or angel funding to help them get things off the ground.

Overall, while Ashlesha is excited to have won the competition, she is most passionate about the application of artificial intelligence and the potential for widespread use of AI to help solve problems that humans can’t. Growing up with a dentist for a mother, Ashlesha said she’s been inspired by the hippocratic oath and pledges to apply the same principles to her work in technology and “do no harm.” She believes that if you’re using technology to solve to a problem, especially artificial intelligence, that you want to make sure that the solution is better than what a human can do. She looks forward to using Plano Intelligence Inc. as a vehicle to raise awareness about artificial intelligence and its uses, and getting the community more involved with how we can apply it in our everyday lives.

If you’d like to reach Ashlesha or her team at Plano Intelligence Inc., you can do so at or 214-718-3171.

Caitlin Studley