The impact of COVID-19 on schools has prompted educators to reassess their on-campus safety. How can we deliver the utmost duty of care in this new world? How can we ensure community safety and do our part on campus, as we seek to reduce the spread of the virus long term? How can we manage social distancing and ensure we can broadcast information to all those on site in times of emergency? How can we do all of this in ways that are fast, smart and cost-effective?
Over the past decade, educational institutions have been progressively enhancing and growing their IT investments and opportunities for technology in learning get better every day. Many educators are now coming to realise that the same technology investments in learning can also offer benefits in the areas of security and safety, with easy to deploy add-on solutions at little to no cost.
Getting back to school safely
With the pandemic still very much front and centre, we have a need to be able to react quickly as local conditions change. It’s critical that campuses in primary and higher education are able to promptly facilitate the contact tracing process should a student, faculty member or recent visitor become COVID-19 positive. Reaction time is key in reducing the spread of the virus and any new wave of cases. People are often the weakest link on a contact tracing exercise. Our memories of where we’ve been and for how long can be foggy and subjective. Our digital devices don’t suffer the same problems. Many institutions have turned to their networks and devices to help locate and trace people movements quickly and accurately. Some use the Wi-Fi on a mobile device or laptop and others have taken to issuing Bluetooth based site passes to all staff, students and visitors with the advantage of this approach being sub 1metre location accuracy. It’s even possible to use existing CCTV and AI software tool to map and trace people movements to aid with contact tracing.
These data feeds can also reveal how often and in what areas social distancing rules are being broken. This data can be used to make adjustments accordingly to corridor access points and pathways, or add new site entry and exit routes, to reduce traffic frequency and density.
Such technology is functional and effective, and best of all it’s maximising your existing assets. You’re leveraging your investments by learning from (and acting on) the data you’re gathering. A critical part of a school’s duty of care is also protecting the privacy of its people and visitors – and therefore your IT partners should ensure these solutions protect all data with enterprise-grade security.
Innovations that protect from bushfire risk
This crisis has also prompted calls for our wider attention on other potential emergency scenarios, making us assess the current detection and response process for many schools. Here in Australia, fires are a major threat to our schools.
In the event of a fire, mobile apps that leverage location-based Bluetooth technology can be incredibly helpful and efficient in alerting students and faculty members of an emergency and guiding them to safety. For example, in the event of an incident, the software will push out a message to everyone with the app that says: “are you safe?” or “are you not safe?”.
Based on your response, a digital 4D map of the site should immediately offer insight to first responders on the area of the large campus where people are in danger. It saves first responders from running around a large facility trying to determine who is safe and who is not, and instead makes them situationally aware. They can respond faster, and the app’s mapping can also guide your students and faculty to designated safety zones.
In addition, IoT devices placed around a campus can also work in unison with on-site networking solutions. These sensors can detect for instance smoke on site, due to the presence of certain particulates in the air. Multiple sensors in the one device can detect any alarming presence of chemicals such as, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ethanol and ammonia, as well as temperature, humidity, light and sound, and trigger a support response.
Safety is leading the agenda for schools around the country and the world. The time is now to start filling existing gaps in protocols, by leveraging existing and cost-effective add-on technology as much as possible. At the core, AI embedded networking technology can be an incredibly valuable tool for monitoring, alerting and guiding safety.
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