Internet of Things

Aldine ISD Invests in IoT for School Safety

Aldine Independent School District is piloting the use of IoT lighting and alarm buttons connected to sensors to improve school safety and communications with first responders.

The use of the Internet of Things has the ability dramatically shift the way that schools deal with crisis situations and building management. In Houston, Aldine Independent School District is taking the first steps to pilot the use of IoT sensors and smart lighting to improve communications with first responders in times of crisis through a partnership with Microsoft. The pilot is part of a larger initiative with the city of Houston to develop a comprehensive smart city initiative that enables real-time sharing of information across city departments and school districts.

"Our mayor established the partnership with Microsoft and Aldine ISD was brought in because the school district is deploying an innovative solution," said Houston Deputy CIO Summer Xiao. "It enables IoT sensors such as sound, temperature and air quality sensors and cameras."

Microsoft has partnered with Insight and BeSafe Technologies to bring IoT solutions to Aldine ISD. The first phase of a pilot project with two schools in the district has been completed. Through this process, the layout of the schools was digitized, which involved mapping out the entire campus and providing information on tools for first responders, such as fire extinguishers and shut-off valves for water and electricity.

The next phase of the pilot will involve adding IoT sensors to track specific functions in the school environment such as lighting. There will also be an app deployed to teachers, school administrators and first responders that will open the lines of communication for different emergency situations. Air quality sensors will also be added to the school system to help teachers and students know when those with medical conditions such as asthma should stay inside during recess.

first responder mobile app

"We're also adding in video cameras for the schools in Aldine," said Cameron Carr, director of IoT strategy and scale at Microsoft. "But there are privacy and security issues that we are concerned about especially with students, so we allow the schools to opt in and give access to first responders if needed."

The entire platform for the IoT network is built on Microsoft Azure, with built-in accessibility features for rights access. "When the sensors are sending data to the cloud, it goes through our IoT hub so we are able to add as many sensors as we want. We are able to store and segment data for video as needed. The communications platform in terms of messaging and alerts goes through Azure as well," said Carr.

The work with Aldine ISD fits into a larger mission by the city of Houston to connect first responders and other government departments. Houston officials are in the process of building the infrastructure on Azure to bring in enterprise data from different departments and to connect siloed sources of data to help with decision-making.

"When all of this data can congregate together, that is the next-level value of smart city data. You can see a complete picture and interesting trends that you haven't seen before," said Carr.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@1105media.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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