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Exclusive: Supporting schools in the fight against COVID-19

schools

Jamie Barnfield, Sales Director at IDIS Europe explains how savvy systems integrators can help schools protect against the risk of COVID-19.

COVID-19 has unleashed challenges on a scale that we could barely have imagined as we entered 2020.  Preventing the spread of the virus is priority number one and doing that means implementing new and often unfamiliar procedures to contain the spread and get ahead of the curve.

While pretty much every industry and facet of life has been impacted, the education sector has been especially hard hit. Schools and colleges are being forced to make adjustments to ensure ongoing learning ‘as usual’ in circumstances that are anything but usual.

Returning to schools

Pupils returned to schools in some nations, including the US, earlier than in others, such as the UK, which may be able to benefit from lessons learned.

According to data compiled by Education Week, US states have adopted a wide array of approaches to kicking off the new school year. And in the devolved nations of the UK the challenges of re-opening primary and secondary schools are also being tackled in different ways. Most have decided to offer face-to-face learning to allow parents to go back to work, while others are attempting a hybrid model for older children and merging both approaches.

As if adapting to the new modes of teaching and virtual tech isn’t hard enough, school heads and governors must also be mindful of implementing the safety measures and new technologies that these COVID-19 times demand.

Consequently, the need for knowledgeable and honest systems integrators to serve schools has never been greater. COVID-19, despite all of its tragic consequences, has also ushered in a new wave of opportunities for security solutions providers who are helping to prevent its spread. It’s some consolation that in doing so they are providing other benefits too, including improved security, safety and operational efficiency.

Teachers teach. School governors govern. It’s what they do. Security and its associated technologies are not what they do. Systems integrators who can demonstrate a solid understanding of the problems schools are facing and deliver sensible tech solutions that solve them, will be well placed to step up and help.

Fitting schools out with the technologies they need can make all the difference between a safe return to school and the need to shut down all over again. The right technology can help with social distance monitoring, people counting, density control and automated mask detection.

A consultative approach with VMS

Taking a consultative approach to improving safety and security is more likely to impress potential customers. This is especially true now, after months of frenzy selling, with “fever detection cameras” being installed despite the fact that they come with a glaring lack of clinical evidence and little proof of effectiveness as a tool for mass screening at busy entrances. Nor does it seem as if they’ll identify the many asymptomatic COVID carriers, particularly those in younger age groups.

Safety and security in schools has been paramount for years, ever since atrocities such as Dunblane in Scotland, Columbine in the US, or the Anders Breivik lone wolf attacks in Norway in 2011. While there are some newly emerging security technologies for preventing the spread of COVID-19, now is also an ideal time to leverage the often-underused capabilities of schools’ existing video surveillance systems.

Taking this approach, a great place for integrators to start is to offer advice on how to better leverage existing technology. For example, virtual line-cross analytics, can be set up quickly to help monitor entry points and trigger automatic alerts. Staffing levels will often be down given the need to quarantine, so the use of notifications alongside event video footage will mean they can investigate and resolve incidents more quickly, taking some of the pressure off, which could prove crucial to ensure a safe and calm learning environment.

Client software can ensure they are also able to keep working to protect their schools while they work from home. Additionally, mobile apps can give security staff remote video management software (VMS)-level functionality, including live view, playback, searching, bookmarking, PTZ control, mobile dewarping for 360-degree fisheye cameras, event notifications and more. 

Indeed, these systems provide everything school security and facilities management staff need to run their own satellite video control operations, wherever they are. For more efficient command and control, VMS capabilities can now be easily set up with simple rules to allow targeted notifications to be sent to individuals and groups via SMS or email.

With this in mind, systems integrators can teach the teachers – via online training for example – on the use of functions within existing systems, which will also help schools understand the additional benefits of adopting new technologies that can assist with social distancing, crowd control and mask detection capabilities.

Harnessing AI for COVID era controls

Artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities offer the ability to solve a raft COVID-19 safeguarding requirements.  Face mask detection, for instance, uses existing networked cameras combined with deep learning algorithms to detect people without face coverings. It can also send alerts to notify appropriate personnel in cases of non-compliance. Schools will look to their tech vendors to help them navigate the changing, varied and often complex COVID regulations and AI can give them the information to make the fine judgment calls of whether, where and how to enforce the wearing of face coverings and other measures.

AI, when integrated into video surveillance, can also be used to detect problems and issue verbal warnings to encourage students to keep a safe distance if the protocol is violated. Automated reporting on social distancing and violations enables operators to identify pinch points and adapt the flow of students to better optimise facilities and space.

Similarly, people counting and density control solutions can be remarkably simple to use and highly accurate. They can accommodate the needs of all campuses, from smaller pre-schools that might only require single door capabilities to secondary schools or colleges that can leverage multiple cameras to cover internal and external doors.

And smart systems integrators equipped with honest and accurate information about the technology solutions that schools really need will surely get high marks from their education sector clients. These systems integrators will find new ways to grow their businesses while helping schoolchildren and students to succeed too.

www.idisglobal.com

This article was published in the October 2020 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital copy here