Wireless Sensor Technology Usage for Schools During COVID-19

Wireless Sensor Technology Usage for Schools During COVID-19

As the first fall semester of the Covid-19 era gets underway, K-12 schools and universities are struggling to operate safely. Many are already seeing outbreaks and disruptions of their return-to-class plans, despite the safety measures they’ve put in place. Because of human nature and the risk-taking tendencies of young adults, the existing safety measures on their own may not provide enough protection for students, staff, and communities. Extra facility monitoring resources can help overburdened school officials identify problems like large gatherings and quarantine violations in real-time, not later when social media posts circulate.

Wireless sensor technology can help overburdened school officials during Coronavirus improve their safety and monitoring procedures quickly and cost-effectively.

Some recent outbreaks have been traced to students who violate school rules about large gatherings. To prevent the wider spread of outbreaks that begin on college campuses, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci now recommends that colleges avoid sending students home if there’s an outbreak.

Meanwhile, at K-12 schools around the country, there are cases of students and teachers bringing the virus from home. Proper distancing on campus is critical to prevent these cases from spreading, even though safe distancing reduces the number of students attending in-person classes.

Schools, of course, weren’t set up to enforce distancing and quarantine rules. Adding staff to enforce safety measures is a cost that’s not in the budget for many schools. Asking current staff to take on high stakes monitoring tasks is stressful and impractical because it pulls those employees away from their core duties and can put their health at risk.

More “Eyes and Ears” to Protect Students and Staff

How can schools improve their safety and monitoring procedures quickly and cost-effectively? Enhanced facility monitoring with inexpensive wireless sensor systems can help with physical distancing and quarantine monitoring.

On university campuses and in K-12 schools, one of the major challenges is reducing the risk of outbreaks. Physical distancing is one of the best practices to prevent an infected student or staffer from spreading the virus. As the headlines show, however, getting students to maintain safe distances can be consistently difficult.

Low-cost wireless sensor networks can help resident advisors, housing managers, and security staff monitor classrooms and campus common areas like dining halls, lobbies, and corridors. A network of quick-to-install door sensors, motion detectors, and wireless video cameras can monitor traffic flow through hallways, movement in classrooms, and gatherings in common areas. All the data is sent to a secure on-site gateway that relays the sensor data to the cloud, where authorized staffers can see in real-time where the areas of highest activity are.

For example, if a door to a common room that’s supposed to remain closed overnight is repeatedly opened and closed, that could indicate a possible gathering in violation of safety rules. When a staffer sees that door sensor activity, they can also check images from the wireless video camera in the common room. Based on their view of what’s happening, they can decide whether someone needs to go clear the room or not.

To keep campus staff members from monitoring the sensor dashboard continuously, they can set thresholds for sensor activity that generate alerts. That way, if there’s more motion than is safe in a hallway between classes, for example, staffers can get an alert on their phone or via email. They can then access the video feed for that area and go in person to move some students out of the area if there’s overcrowding.

Wireless sensor systems also save and analyze all the data they collect. Over time that information can reveal patterns that show school officials which parts of campus are hot spots for crowding. With this information, staffers can focus on fixing traffic flow and access to the most problematic parts of campus first, for the biggest impact on safety.

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