That’s short for Radio Frequency Identification. Early this year, one application of RFID stirred up some controversy in Texas, where administrators came up with the notion that all kids in one school would be required to wear them. This was theoretically going to improve school attendance, but it didn’t. Instead, it alarmed quite a few area residents who didn’t want their children to be continually tracked. Too Orwellian. The school backed off.
But technology can be used well or poorly. I found this newer application quite promising:
The Ekahau system (www.ekahau.com) piggy-backs on a school’s wi-fi system, so no new wiring or hardware is required. The system provides RFID-embedded cards, similar to typical ID cards, to all staff, not students. If staff-members need help, or want to institute a lockdown, they pull the emergency tags at the base of their cards. This sends a text message, and spells out the location, to either police or other designated parties. Responders can also pull up maps on their computer screens showing staff locations in the area.
The device also includes two buttons which can be customized for particular types of more common emergencies, such as medical or behavioral crises. This is clever for more than one reason: first, it makes the card far more useful, since the genuine need for lockdowns in most locations should be rare, and second, because by using the card more the staff will become accustomed to the technology, and more likely to remember to use it as needed. Save them up for a school shooting and by the time they are needed nobody will be wearing them anymore, let alone remember how to use them.
Another smart feature: text messages can be sent to one particular card, or to a wide swath of badge wearers simultaneously, without being dependent on school-wide intercom announcements. This allows for considerably more discretion.
The Ekahau Real-Time Location System (RTLS) is pretty new on the scene. Skyview High School in Nampa, Idaho, adopted it in April, 2013, and I’ll be curious to hear their feedback. An anonymous donor covered the $30,000 cost, distributing badges to 100 teachers. In general the system prices out at $35-45 per student.
Contact info: www.ekahau.com http://www.ekahau.com/real-time-location-system/demos-webinars Tel: 1-866-4EKAHAU (1-866-4352428)
Skyview High, Nampa, ID 208-498-0561