By GREGORY ZELLER // A Huntington-based tech firm that makes its bones in the education arena is doing some extracurricular work on school security.
Teq, a manufacturer and distributor of high-tech professional-development and educational tools, this week announced the launch of Spot, an “all-in-one mass emergency communication platform” that utilizes a mobile app to facilitate crisis-situation connections.
Spot gives teachers and other staffers the ability to report emergency situations with the touch of a single button – streamlining communications, providing location awareness and otherwise enhancing security in real time.
“Since every second counts during an emergency, streamlined communications and management saves lives,” Allison Forlenza, Teq’s product manager for Spot, told Innovate LI. “With just the push of the ‘spot,’ you can instantly send alerts to faculty, staff, emergency responders, students and parents from any mobile device.”
Pressing the “spot” – a large red button that appears in the middle of a mobile device’s screen when the app is activated – alerts on-site personnel, including school security, to developing emergencies. Those officials then determine whether outside help is required, and if it is, they call in the cavalry.
“Emergency responders are notified if on-site security are not able to handle the situation,” Forlenza noted, citing scenarios including fires, medical emergencies and “active shooters.”
An important distinction in the Spot system is that no individual can simply summon outside police and fire personnel with the touch of a button. The extra step ensures that.
“[Outside emergency responders] are only involved if the on-site responders determine they’re needed,” Forlenza said. “Then, all information captured from the Spot app gets pushed via text to 9-1-1.”
In addition to the “panic button,” Spot utilizes other tools – including Bluetooth iBeacons – to provide prompt location accuracy and gather other information that could be critical to emergency responders. The cloud-based emergency platform allows users to relay information silently via text or photo, a potential advantage in a hostage crisis or other intruder situation. It also doesn’t rely on outside power, which could prove critical in case of a fire or natural disaster that cuts off electricity, and it stays active indefinitely, offering users the opportunity to actively monitor a scene for the duration of a crisis.
Focusing on emergencies marks a definite departure for Teq, which was launched in 1972 and has spent the decades focused on professional development of teachers and increasingly high-tech learning pathways for students.
With several regional distribution deals inked this year, the firm has been increasing sales of proprietary K-12 products such as Teq Online PD, a series of web-based professional development opportunities, and Teq Unlimited, a collaborative software package combining various educational products produced by Teq and Alberta, Canada-based distribution partner SMART Technologies.
Veering into school security is a natural extension of those technological chops, according to Teq President Chris Hickey, particularly in an era of frighteningly frequent school shootings.
“Today’s schools need a system in place that provides effective security monitoring and timely incident reporting,” Hickey said. “We are extending our partnership with schools to offer not only classroom technology for learning, but to also address the heightened need for reliable classroom and campus security.”
Spot figures to be a strong seller in New York State, where the Smart Schools Bond Act – authorizing $2 billion in general obligation bonds for educational technology and infrastructure – was approved by voters in November. Among the capital projects outlined by the bond act: high-tech security features in school buildings and on school campuses, including emergency notification systems.
Teq will charge schools a sliding annual subscription rate based on the number of users, starting at around $3,200 for up to 50 teachers – a small price to pay, according to Teq officials, for something that dramatically enhances location awareness and improves emergency communications.
Investing in solutions that are low-maintenance while still providing functionality is necessary to meet the needs of the school while adhering to strict spending guidelines,” Forlenza said. “Considering the new standard in school security, this unique combination of market communication, emergency management and real-time location awareness makes Spot the ideal platform for modernizing K-12 school security.”