With Fly Sense, the bullied need not suffer in silence

Makes sense: The next-generation sensor system inside the Fly Sense unit can detect chemicals from vaping and even the acoustic evidence of bullying, and immediately alert school officials.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A high-tech Long Island manufacturer has unveiled a next-level sensor system that can remotely detect bullying situations in schools and alert officials in real time.

Digital Fly, a 2015 startup spun out of Hauppauge product-design ace Intelligent Product Solutions, has added the Fly Sense sensor system to its growing list of school-safety solutions. The cloud-based, Internet of Things-synched system is billed by the company as an “anti-bullying and vaping detector/sensor,” equipped to sniff out the revealing aerosol of e-cigarettes and pick up the telltale sounds of bullying and fighting.

Designed to literally be a fly on the wall of school corridors and bathrooms, Fly Sense packs a super-sensitive “multi-device sensor,” according to Digital Fly founder Derek Peterson. Specifically, the system involves a forward edge-detection sensor and a back-end logic-processing server that allows each Fly Sense unit to work independently or in concert with other units.

The system detects vaping through moisture content and other minute changes in the air. But it’s all ears when it comes to bullying, creating an auditory baseline and then comparing it to acoustic changes – shouts, for instance, or other sounds associated with fighting.

“We actually normalize the sound in a given location, such as a bathroom, over time,” Peterson told Innovate LI. “We learn the fingerprint of a particular space’s sound levels and categorize it, and then measure [live sound] against what the bathroom should sound like.

“We can tell when a kid is being pummeled and is screaming, versus the sound of washing hands.”

When the sensor detects decibel-level anomalies caused by bullying or increased chemical levels caused by vaping, it immediately notifies school officials via computers and mobile devices.

Fly Sense lands just days after New York State adopted legislation outlawing vaping and the use of e-cigarettes on public- and private-school property. But the sensor system’s more important functionality – and, arguably, more technologically impressive – may be that bullying detector.

Peterson referenced the recent tragedy of Gabriel Taye, an 8-year-old Ohio boy who apparently took his own life after what might have been a bullying incident in a school bathroom.

Although Cincinnati public school officials have argued against any connections between the incident – which was caught on surveillance tape – and the boy’s death, Gabriel’s family is now suing the Carson Elementary School, citing among other things a culture of “aggression, violence, bullying, intimidation and harassment” among students. And they’re not the only family to take schools to court after alleged bullying incidents.

The bright national spotlight on bullying has helped widen Digital Fly’s perspective. Launched originally as an online defender against Columbine-type tragedies, primarily by monitoring social media channels for signs of impending school attacks, the two-year-old startup now offers an extensive line of high-tech school-safety products.

Derek Peterson: Sensitive type.

While still patrolling social media channels to safeguard against potential massacres, the company has introduced a suite of more personal tools, including some specifically targeting bullying. That includes Glue Board, a “bullying management solution” with a mobile-app component.

The app, shared with students by school officials, allows students to anonymously report bullying situations, including the sharing of photos of alleged incidents. More substantial (and less revealing, witness-wise) than any verbal report, Glue Board provides “a traceability management solution” for each reported bullying case, according to Peterson – something that might have prevented the Gabriel Taye heartbreak and its litigious aftermath.

“Case in point,” he noted. “His parents say they were reporting that the child was being bullied, but there is no evidence they ever reported it.”

Glue Board also gives students and parents easy access to school policies on bullying, weather-related closings and cafeteria menus – a “central place” for administrators to share important messages on a wide range of critical topics, Peterson added.

While the risks of mass school shootings need no further introduction, the intensifying national focus on bullying – plus continued campaigns against e-cigarettes and the like – figure to boost Digital Fly’s bottom line, particularly with Fly Sense taking off. Mike Richez, executive vice president of Lynbrook-based software solutions provider Optimum Solutions Corp. (better known by its stage name OSC World), called the new product “a game-changer for schools.”

OSC World, a Digital Fly marketing partner and primary reseller, is particularly emboldened by the product’s commercial debut coming on the heels of New York’s freshly minted anti-vaping laws.

“It falls directly in line with the new law,” Richez said in a statement. “Vaping and e-cigarette use is dangerous to the health of students and can be a gateway to the use of illegal drugs or tobacco smoking.”

That noble combination of school safety and social awareness, multiplied by a high-tech foundation, is giving his startup “a strong business forecast,” Peterson said.

“Business is starting to ramp up strongly,” he said. “It took a year to build the name and build the brand. Now, the brand is out there and schools are recognizing it.

“We’re trying to manage our expectations,” Peterson added. “But we’re very excited about where we are.”