Keeping Students Safe on Campus with IoT Sensor Technology

College and university administrators need to protect students, faculty and staff—and the physical environment—from a widening array of threats. While the risks to health and well-being of students are growing, so are the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies that can help institutions protect people on campuses, both proactively and reactively.

Higher education facilities are already using IoT technologies to optimize energy usage, monitor HVAC systems, lighting and other devices to hold down operating costs and minimize repairs. Schools are using IoT technologies to improve classroom teaching via the use of whiteboards, for wayfinding and to track bookstore inventory. And colleges and universities are also using IoT technologies to secure buildings with smart door locks, building alarms and video surveillance of public spaces, for instance.

IoT has certainly impacted teaching and learning in higher education. The technologies can enable students to learn at a comfortable pace, and get a similar educational experience whether learning at home or in a lecture hall. Teaching becomes more efficient for professors as well, since they can rely on IoT technologies to help facilitate lessons and grade tests, for instance and personalize their approach to individual students.

Many IoT technologies already in use in higher education environments incorporate the use of sensors to detect the presence of humans in a specific area, automobiles in parking spaces and temperature changes in indoor spaces. But now, sophisticated sensors can now connect with back end technology to alert administrators and security personnel to potentially dangerous situations before they happen or detect the presence of toxic or illegal substances. Sensor-based systems can also detect unhealthy indoor air quality, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims can be two to five times higher in pollutants than outside air, contributing to short- and long-term health problems for students and staff.

But while the sensors themselves are sophisticated, it’s really the IoT technology that enables the magic. It allows the devices be connected for real-time threat monitoring and faster responses. For instance, acoustic sensors can capture and detect the sound of gunshots, which are analyzed with machine learning algorithms. If sounds are detected that appear to be gunfire, a system can send an alert to emergency personnel for immediate response. 

Several companies now offer sensor-based systems that keep campuses safer. IPVideo Corp. offers its HALO Smart Sensor, for instance, which is touted as an all-in-one security and health device. It monitors carbon dioxide (CO2), particulate concentrations, humidity, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and Nitrogen Dioxide in the air. It also identifies vaping or smoking in bathrooms, dorm rooms and locker rooms. Safety capabilities include the ability to detect specific spoken key words that can alert school personnel of fights in public spaces, abnormally high noise levels and excessive banging. The HALO Smart Sensor also can help manage energy costs by monitoring building usage and only heating or lighting rooms when they’re occupied.