A Healthy Dose

IoT smart sensor technology gives schools a healthy dose of security in privacy areas

Vaping has grown in epidemic proportions over the past few years with schools across the country looking for effective ways to mitigate the situation quickly. *In 2018-2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 38 percent of high school students and 13 percent of middle school children have tried vaping.

Alarming Rates

These rates are alarming to most school administrators who want to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for students. We can all agree that the challenges facing schools today are enormous and requires the right dose of education and technology to help combat the vaping epidemic. Schools need to be clearly focused on the well-being and physical health of students in addition to safety.

Another challenge facing school administrators is how to monitor privacy areas, like bathrooms or locker rooms, where video cameras are not allowed. With these limitations, students have taken advantage of these privacy areas that are not under surveillance to carry out dangerous behaviors like vaping during school hours.

“It’s not so much about disciplining students who are vaping at school, but protecting our students’ health and making sure they get the help they need for substance abuse,” said Kristopher Harrison, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools at Irvington Union Free School District. Irvington has developed educational programs to help students with substance abuse issues, as the district believes in educating students on the dangers of vaping to help them make healthier lifestyle choices.

Irvington is one of the school districts in New York that is proactive when it comes to vaping and researched various vape detection systems in the marketplace.

“After doing our due diligence, IPVideo Corporation’s HALO IOT Smart Sensor was selected by Irvington as the best fit for our needs to help deter vaping specifically in the restrooms. The device has been extremely accurate and has helped school leadership deal with the vaping issue effectively by identifying when and where our students have been vaping,” Harrison said. “In addition, it has given our school the ability to differentiate from typical vaping to those that have THC in it.”

IPVideo Corp. introduced HALO at the 2019 ISC West show in Las Vegas, winning new product of the year honors as a real-time vape detection and security device. The sensor not only detects regular vape; but can detect real-time smoke and vape with Nicotine or Marijuana (THC oil). In addition to vape and smoke detection, HALO offers several safety features including abnormal sound detection, chemical detection and air quality monitoring; making it a powerful all-in-one solution. There are 12 sensors in HALO and the product catches over a million data points per day sending immediate alerts via text or email to school security personnel when thresholds are exceeded.

In April, IPVideo Corp. released HALO 2.0, which expanded the capabilities of the device even further to include such things as spoken keyword alerting, gunshot detection and masking signature identification, which enables the device to detect when someone is trying to conceal vaping. With an open platform philosophy, HALO can seamlessly integrate to a school’s existing video surveillance system to help identify who is coming out of a bathroom immediately after the alert.

“HALO has won 23 awards and counting and has been a real game changer when it comes to securing privacy areas,” said David Antar, president at IPVideo Corporation. “We are proud of the enhancements we have made with the release of HALO 2.0 and currently have the device deployed in over 1,000 schools in the United States and international markets.”

Safeguarding Students’ Health and Safety with One Device

With an enrollment of over 2,250 students on campus, making it one of the larger high schools in Contra Costa County in the Bay Area of California, Clayton Valley Charter High School (CVCHS) heard about vape detection technology after a nearby school was testing out the HALO units in some of their bathrooms.

CVCHS’s administrator over discipline wanted to get a handle on how big the vaping problem really was on the CVCHS campus and presented a case to the school board for a pilot program. To their surprise, not only was the pilot approved, but the board increased the budget and approved the HALO device for every single restroom at the school. 30 HALO units were seamlessly installed in under two weeks in restrooms throughout the school by a certified IPVideo Corp. security systems integrator, IT Management. Within the first few days of deployment, the devices sent around 300 text alerts to the school’s security team for vaping alerts; confirming CVCHS had a serious vaping issue on its hands.

Due to HALO, the administrative team was able to locate students who used vape with THC in it and immediately place the students in counseling to help them overcome their addiction or any other issues that arose from the intervention by the school.

“Our advice to other schools out there in similar situations is don’t fear technology. A high-tech problem like vaping requires a hightech solution like HALO to solve the problem,” said Sunny Shergill, special projects manager at CVCHS. “Our HALO investment has paid offwell for us by giving our school the ability to identify the students who participate in vaping and may need drug counseling, so we can get them the help that they need to overcome it. Finding the right technology and integrator partner is crucial to implementing a successful solution and we were fortunate to have found both.”

Schools Making the Grade, Becoming Safer with HALO 2.0

One of the new features of HALO 2.0 is spoken key word alerting, which allows students and staffmembers to call for help by simply speaking a key word phrase like “HALO HELP” in the room where the sensor is located. The alert is instantly sent to a school’s security team for immediate response. The new functionality available with this current release broadens the applications of the sensor beyond vaping detection in schools as a critical security device.

“HALO will continue to assist schools as a vape and THC detector,” Antar said.“With the added 2.0 features, like spoken key word alerts and gunshot detection, HALO is a cost effective all in one school security device for privacy areas where you cannot have a camera installed.”

HALO is now able to safeguard both the health and safety of not only children in schools, but in any type of situation, especially areas of privacy. HALO can be used in dorm rooms, hotel rooms, hospitals, nursing homes, commercial properties and retail establishments to alert security of an emergency in real-time by saying the key word. Addressing privacy concerns, the audio is not being recorded. Alerts are automatically sent to security for immediate response and to help diffuse situations, the alerts can also trigger an audible message that an emergency has been declared and security has been notified.

Another new feature “masking signature identification,” enables the device to detect when someone is trying to spray perfume, cologne or some other type of aerosol to try and conceal vaping. Gilbert Public Schools located in the suburb of the greater Phoenix- Mesa area in Arizona was looking to be proactive regarding these negative types of student behaviors that are being experienced at high schools nationwide.

Join the Crusade

As part of the crusade to deter vaping, the school installed HALO units in both the girls’ and boys’ bathroom at one of their high schools and learned quickly that vaping was an issue at the school.

“Good news…they work!....Bad news…they work!. By this, I mean that HALO has met our need of detecting vaping incidents and has led to an increase in the need for campus security officers responding to the HALO installed locations,” said Allen Cain, Safety & Security Director at Gilbert Public Schools. “We did detect many students vaping when HALO was first installed, but once they knew it was installed our vaping encounters with students decreased and the negative behavior was curtailed at these locations. Some students at the school tried to defeat the device, however due to the sensor being tamper-resistant were not successful.”

Pequannock Township High School (PTHS) in New Jersey has always been focused on staying in front of safety and security issues. With the thought process that education, detection, and deterrence was the right combination to tackle the vaping issue; HALO proved to be the perfect solution once again. After researching new detection technology to help mitigate future issues at the school, the director of security and IT director were relieved to find that the perfect device did exist and can be implemented seamlessly.

Finding the right dose of security to keep students healthy and safe was made easier with HALO. After installing the devices, the school was able to catch and document all vaping incidents. “The HALO device was incredibly accurate with its real-time alerts, be it vaping, THC or vandalism,” said Ron Lucas, director of security at PTHS.” Initially, we had a few attempts at disconnecting the devices and a few incidents of where an object was thrown at the sensor to disable it; but both were unsuccessful due to the tamper-resistant features. Having the HALO device enabled us to see the problem vaping has become at our school and now we finally have a tool to help us address it in an effective way.”

Gunshot Detection and Enhanced Audio Analytics

In addition to spoken key word alerting, another new feature of HALO 2.0 includes active shooter detection technology. When a gunshot is detected, HALO will instantly alert users to the locations of shots fired and simultaneously send alerts via SMS text messages, email or third-party alerts systems to security personnel.

IPVideo Corp. has added machine learning capabilities to the HALO sensor that will enable it to learn normal audio levels within a facility and thus send alerts when normal thresholds are exceeded. This can be used to catch indicators of possible bullying or violence at schools and prevent an incident.

Clayton Valley Charter High School benefited from this new enhancement and was able to stop a fight with HALO’s "abnormal sound detection for aggressive behavior" feature.

“CVCHS was able to make the campus safer by preventing a physical fight, while also getting students help to overcome their challenges all with one powerful device,” Shergill said. “There are no other products out there that offer what HALO does – a complete solution for vape detection and security.” Another issue at the school was vandalism in the bathrooms such as breaking the paper towel dispensers; which was quickly resolved with HALO.

Future Roadmap for Schools

With the current global health pandemic, schools are faced with setting up online courses and sanitizing their buildings to ensure a healthy and safe learning environment upon students’ return. “Next on our roadmap is going to be based on how we can help schools return in the fall after the COVID-19 shutdown,” Antar said. “The next release is going to focus on air quality as we add an Air Quality Index (AQI) and BACnet integration to tie into building HVAC and filtration systems. The AQI along with our pressure sensor and HALO’s ability to detect when environments have been cleaned should give organizations proof of areas being disinfected regularly.”

With every school district comes budget constraints and challenges prioritizing how the money should be spent.

“We understand the implications of school budgets, so we are adding these additional features that come with HALO 2.0 at no additional cost to the schools,” Antar said. “The health and safety of our children should never be compromised and needs to be the number one priority of every school in our nation. We all need to join forces as one united community to combat the issues facing schools today, be it vaping, violence prevention or coping with the pandemic, as we are all in this together.”

This article originally appeared in the July August 2020 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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