School Safety and Security Tech A Millennials Perspective
What is the democratization of school safety and security tech and what does it mean for school administrators? At school safety and security conferences that I attend with my company Ruvna, I tend to stick out a bit. It’s not the beard, nor my conspicuous lack of a clima-cool polo and light washed jeans. No, It’s my age that makes me stick out. Being born in the mid 90’s, besides any students that might be in attendance, I am by far the youngest person at every event I attend. That’s right, I’m a millennial.
As someone who came of age in the 2000’s, I am particularly shocked by how much the school safety environment has changed since I began high school. With the rise in robo-calls, evacuations, and other crisis incidents, school safety and security has gone from something to be discussed in a back room to a core part of our national dialogue. However, in many ways the school safety and security industry itself has just begun to go through such a transformation.
School Safety and Security Tech – New Products
While a plethora of new products are released year after year touting world changing capabilities, the core philosophical approach of capability over usability has remained the same.
Feature heavy, rugged, “insert catchy phrase here” products might be a great fit for a police officer, SRO or security professional, but they are not quite as good for everyone else. In fact, in almost every conversation I have with teachers, administrators and SRO’s I hear the same thing: “There are a lot of great pieces of technology out there, but I just don’t get how I should use them”. As school safety and security becomes more democratized, the way solutions are developed must adjust to meet the demands of a changing user base.
This starts with the questions we ask ourselves. It goes a step beyond the classic entrepreneur’s progression of noticing a problem and attempting to design a solution that addresses this problem. It means seeing a problem, and then asking, “What does this process look like in an ideal fashion?”.
While the “ideal world” is a security professional’s worst nightmare, in many ways thinking about what the ideal experience looks like from your customer/clients prospective is the best way towards finding a workable and more importantly usable solution. To highlight this, I will use two examples, one in the safety and security space and another that more general EdTech.
School Safety and Security Tech -Piece of Mind Co’s Sage Device
The first example is Piece of Mind Co’s Sage device. The device is deceptively simple and the problem is straightforward: How can we help students signal they need help discreetly, quickly, and easily?”. Instead of making a panic button app or advising schools to install more safety pylons, they thought on the process level. They asked what the experience of trying to signal for help alone at night looks like, and how could they make it work more effectively for all parties.
Previously, students either screamed, found a security pylon, or called 911. While cell phones can be used to call for help anywhere, fumbling through your phone is not discreet. Similarly, not everywhere has accessible pylons and recommending people stop at the pylons to call for help when they think they are in danger is an obviously flawed suggestion.
The question remained: How could they improve this process? It had to be easy to use, not draw attention, and actually be quicker than pulling out your phone. Well, what is the one thing we all carry with us at all times, especially at night? That’s right, our keys. The POM Sage Keychain was born.
School Safety EdTech -Piece of Mind Co’s Sage Device
Turning our eyes at more traditional “EdTech”, a perfect example of this philosophy is a product called Remind. The problem: How can teachers communicate with students more effectively outside the classroom? For many years this meant putting more assignments on portals online, having blast reminders over email, or calling in the hopes of getting in contact with each other.
To solve this problem, the Remind team identified the most important question: “Why weren’t students reading the messages?”. While it would have been easy to have said apathy or that students didn’t put in the effort, taking the easy route would have missed the bigger problem: There’s so much noise in today’s digital world that teachers needed a way to effectively reach students directly and cut through the noise.
The answer? A simple, secure messaging app that allows teachers to send messages to entire classes, individual students or parents. What’s more, students get notifications on their phones and see a counter of unread messages on their home screen providing consistent reminders that there is important content to read. The usability was incredibly well received and Remind is now in half of all US public schools.
School Safety and Security Tech – Takeaway
The takeaway: Successful tech-enabled products are built with user’s experience and “story” first. That means thinking about the who, what, when, where and why. The next generation of safety and security products will be defined by how intuitive and easy they are for all users, not just for those with a safety and security background. Are they up to the task?
About Our Guest Author
Marshall Singer is Co-Founder, Chief Financial Officer at Ruvna. Ruvna helps schools locate and account for their students in real-time during emergencies. When a school has an emergency, their top priority is ensuring the safety of their students. With Ruvna, schools can see live reports of who is safe, who needs attention, and who might be in danger.
Learn more about Ruvna at www.ruvna.com.