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Midwest College Deploys Low-Cost RTLS for Emergencies

The RF Technologies security system consists of pendants affixed to desks and podiums so that instructors can discreetly send a Wi-Fi-based alert to campus police.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 22, 2015

A Midwestern community college has selected a solution to bring wireless alert-sending technology to its hundreds of faculty members as school starts this fall. The solution, a version of the HelpAlert real-time location system (RTLS) from RF Technologies (RFT), consists of Wi-Fi-based RFID tags strategically mounted under tables and podiums so that instructors can summon help in the event of an emergency.

The school has a large, 50-year-old campus with approximately 15 buildings and hundreds of classrooms, and it selected the RFT solution to provide a level of security without having to install wires. The HelpAlert RFID tag transmits a signal via the school's existing Wi-Fi network, and HelpAlert software—in use by campus police—identifies the emergency's location, tracks when it was responded to and stores data regarding the nature of the call.

The college installed a HelpAlert RTLS pendant in each classroom, typically mounting it under a desktop.
The college wishes to remain anonymous, according to the school's CIO, in part because it is keeping its security system discreet. Concerned about the multiple school-related violent acts discussed in the news during the past year, faculty members had been approaching the school leadership requesting that each classroom have emergency-call technology, such as phones.

The college has an IP-based telephone infrastructure, and the CIO says putting hundreds of additional phones onto that system would be extremely costly. Therefore, the idea of installing more phones was rejected. The school also looked into wired panic buttons and talked to network provider AT&T about putting in place wireless panic buttons that operate via the cellular network. However, he notes, that would have required the school to sign up for an additional data plan from the network provider—something that would have been too costly. "That led us to a wireless panic system that could be used with our existing [Wi-Fi] platform," he says.

The school met with RF Technologies, which offers a HelpAlert RFID tag in the form of a pendant that an individual can wear on a belt or with a lanyard around the neck. The pendant has a button that a staff member can press, thereby causing the device to transmit a signal over the Wi-Fi system. HelpAlert software operating on a school's database can then identify where the pendant is located and display an alert, send a text message or sound an audible warning.

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