IoT Saves the Day
Versatile smart sensor shapes the future of security for communities coast to coast
- By Monique Merhige
- May 30, 2023
Today, creating a safe environment across schools, hotels, office buildings, housing complexes and other facilities has become a necessity. There are so many dangers lurking in buildings of all sizes and shapes from fire hazards, vaping issues, chemical/air quality issues, intruders and so much more.
A Safe and Secure Campus
The goal of any campus style setting is to create a safe and secure environment by staying in the know about what is really happening in your building. Having a simple, easy-to-use way of monitoring your facility helps give peace of mind when it comes to safety and security. Whether you are a school looking to eliminate vaping or a housing complex looking to protect residences, one common theme applies – eliminating the safety threat.
The only way to accomplish this is with a multi-purpose security solution that can be used in areas not covered by traditional surveillance cameras. This includes certain areas like bathrooms, etc. where cameras are not allowed due to privacy concerns.
Over the years, too many emergency situations have occurred in schools and other facilities throughout the country due to not being able to monitor these privacy areas, creating the need for true security solutions. During an emergency, response time is critical and having alerts sent immediately to designated security staff and personnel can make the difference between life and death in certain situations.
IA School District Creates Healthy Lesson Plan
North Scott Community School District (NSCSD) located in rural Eldridge, IA, is no exception to its own set of challenges. The school district is made up of 5 elementary schools, 1 junior high, and 1 high school. A vaping crisis was going on at the junior high and high school simultaneously and the school administrators needed a way to stop it quickly.
The HALO IoT Smart Sensor was the answer which offered way more than vape detection and included, an indoor health index, emergency escape and alert lighting, motion detection, gunshot detection and keyword alerting.
The mission of the NSCSD is to produce graduates with the capacity to be successful in a changing world, by incorporating abundant resources and offering a broad-based curriculum in a respectful, safe environment. Making their mission a reality means safety come first, requiring the school to find the right security solution that could effectively monitor privacy areas such as bathrooms and locker rooms. With 1,065 students enrolled in high school and 500 + enrolled in junior high; the situation was starting to get out of control.
“The HALO detection system is serving its purpose as a deterrent to our students to discourage vaping,” said Aaron Schwartz, associate principal at North Scott High School. “Prior to their installation we had more than 20 EMS calls for students that we believed were suffering from the effects of vaping. Since the devices have been in place, we haven't had to make any calls.”
Twenty-eight HALO devices installed with 16 sensors were installed in the high school bathrooms and locker rooms, and 12 installed in the junior high. In addition to vaping, it also helped disrupt fights that broke out between students, creating a safer overall environment for students.
HALO Helps Large Non-Profit Housing Agency Keep Residents Safe
Back on the east coast, Concern for Independent Living, Inc. (dba Concern Housing) located in New York, was dealing with different issues. Concern Housing is a non-profit agency committed to helping individuals and families live in the community with dignity and enhanced opportunities through the provision of housing and support services.
The agency offers a variety of housing options with individualized support services designed to support personal growth and independence. It is known as one of the largest housing agencies of its kind in New York State and consists of over 129 sites located in Suffolk County, Nassau County, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. The sites range from scattered apartments and single-family homes to larger congregate settings and multi-family apartment buildings.
With nearly 1,500 residents, the agency was looking for a way to properly protect people and avoid fire hazards, such as smoking. As their housing community continues to expand and grow - two new apartment buildings are currently in the works and being built in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Over the years, Concern Housing has experienced incidents of residents smoking inside their apartments that have caused fires and the agency was focused on preventing any future tragedies. Since Concern Housing does not permit smoking indoors at any of their locations, they wanted an easy way to identify any rule breakers. Each building/residence has a designated area outside for smokers, but unfortunately there were still some people who did not comply with agency policy no matter how many warnings were issued.
Some residents continued to smoke or vape in their units, which was a violation of their lease. To keep operations flowing smoothly, the agency employs 360 staff members that consist of executive management and support teams who are all focused on the well-being of their residents. The time had come to take act and mitigate any future fire risks. In early 2020, the management team started searching for various types of smoke detectors and found an IoT smart sensor that stood out from the crowd.
Sparking an Interest
IPVideo Corp.’s HALO IoT Smart Sensor and New York-based integrator A+ Technology & Security Solutions were able to ensure technology convergence for Concern Housing, which finally knew it had found the fire safety solution they were looking for, for years. The management team wanted to learn more about the HALO IoT Smart Sensor as it sparked their interest as the only solution to their smoking and vaping problem. A decision was made in 2020 to implement a demo program where 20 HALO devices were installed in various buildings to catch smokers and proved to be a huge success.
Even though the agency was not using the device for any other applications other than smoke/vape detection, the sensor could monitor so much more if needed. What makes this sensor unique was that it could also be used for air quality monitoring, gunshot detection, noise alerts, emergency key word alerting and panic buttons, all of which do not use a camera or record audio, and can be used in privacy areas, such as bathrooms. However, the agency was solely focused on smoking/vaping alerts at this time and ensuring that any type of fire hazards could be prevented with HALO.
“Our decision to select HALO was based on the support we received from A+ Technology and how well they worked with our design teams, general contractors and our staff/consultants” said Erika Green, director of property management at Concern Housing. “They are extremely knowledgeable and responsive and have been a valuable resource to us as we look to make our housing as safe as possible for all of our residents.”
Smart Sensor Reduces Fire Risk
With a successful pilot program in 2020, the decision was made by the management team to move forward with the installation and deploy 262 smart sensors in apartments throughout the various sites/buildings.
“Our focus at Concern Housing is keeping people safe and catching individuals who were non-compliant to our non-smoking policy was critical,” Green said.
HALO allowed the agency to be able to provide prompt, effective feedback to residents who were smoking in their units, so the behavior could be strongly discouraged. Concern Housing takes security seriously and deployed an access control and video surveillance system in the larger buildings that are monitored by security guards.
With project plans including more than 399 HALO device installations throughout the buildings, Concern Housing knew that it had finally found the right solution to keep residents’ safe day and night.
“We were alerted right away by the HALO devices with text and email alerts going directly to our management team and security,” Green said.
Reliability was key to the agency as it can alert staff of sensor damage through an alarm triggered if any sensors are tampered with or disengaged by someone. In fact, Concern Housing has received thousands of alerts since 2020, which has led them directly to the person smoking or vaping inside apartments. In some instances, the same individual kept setting off the alerts numerous times, which helped the staff “be in the know” of what is going on inside all their buildings.
Staff members were able to deal with the problem by speaking directly to the person who was breaking the rules and convince them to stop smoking and vaping inside their units. Without the sensor device, there was no way for the management team to pinpoint the culprits and try to mitigate risks. Over the years, HALO has become known for its broad range of applications such as gunshot detection, keyword alerting, air quality monitoring, vaping, smoking, and continues to be known in the industry as an IoT Smart Sensor going beyond just vaping.
“The need for security while maintaining individual privacy is in high demand,” said David Antar, president at IPVideo Corporation. “With HALO and the added safety features and custom sensor options, we can address the security & privacy dilemma in significant ways, further providing our clients with peace of mind.”
As other dangers continue to rear its ugly head; facilities from coast to coast can rest easy knowing that there is a simple, easy solution out there for them that can address all their safety concerns with just one device.
This article originally appeared in the May / June 2023 issue of Security Today.