A+ in safety

Houston-area school district to install first-of-its-kind safety technology

The Aldine Independent School District is the first to employ a new technology focused on campus safety. Educational First Steps/Facebook

Insight Enterprises has announced a collaboration with the city of Houston, Microsoft, and BeSafe to bring the ActiveShield concept to two Houston-area schools this summer. Aldine Independent School District was selected to be the first school district in the nation to implement an IoT platform like this, a representative says.

Safe Spaces a group of tools developed by Tempe, Arizona-based Insight, a Fortune 500 global systems integrator. The safety technology focuses on emergency situations, such as sound sensors, color-coded LED lighting, and real-time information sharing that can notify first responders with pertinent information as soon as possible.

"Knowledge is power, and our mission is to save lives by providing the right information to the right people at the right time," says Kevin Harrington, CEO of BeSafe Technologies, in a release. "What we see with Insight Safe Spaces is the ability to use IoT to build on our core capabilities to further improve public safety. This creates a communication hub that instantly connects on-site security with police, fire and other emergency responders, as well as building occupants."

The schools will be equipped with several of Safe Spaces' technologies, such as:

  • Cameras, sound and motion sensors, etc. that capture data that is then integrated with third-party security systems. (This allows for real-time information sharing and emergency response.)
  • Panic buttons for teachers or staff.
  • Color-coded smart lights that automatically warn of an emergency and indicate how close you are to danger or the school's safe zones.
  • Real-time communication to on-site security and emergency services, with different alerts or action plans based on the information being shared with the central system.
  • Direct lines of communication for people involved in the crisis via a navigation-based mobile app to provide updates and safety instructions in real time.

Together, Insight Safe Spaces and Microsoft Azure IoT solution accelerators combine technological forces to enable Raleigh, North Carolina-based BeSafe to open "new doors to enhanced public safety," says Stan Lequin, vice president and general manager, Insight Digital Innovation, in the release.

"Insight is helping BeSafe expand its foundation of advanced building information technology, transforming these capabilities into interactive action plans that give emergency responders a critical advantage when every second saved potentially means a life saved," Lequin adds.

BeSafe was founded in 1999 to enhance safety in schools by providing emergency response teams advance information about the school's layout, emergency exits, and more. Now, with the new age of technology, the organization is expanding its horizons, and AISD is the first to implement the collaboration of this technology.

"Student and staff safety are a top priority. The partnership with the city of Houston and Microsoft will take our efforts to the next level," says AISD's superintendent of schools, LaTonya M. Goffney, in the release.

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Building Houston

 
 

5G could be taking over Texas — and Houston is leading the way. Photo via Getty Images

Based on one key measure, Houston sits at the forefront of a telecom revolution that could spark a regional economic impact of more than $30 billion.

Data published recently by the Texas Comptroller's Office points out that as of last November and December, Houston led all cities in Texas for the number of so-called "small cells." Small cells are a key component in the rollout of ultra-high-speed 5G wireless communication throughout the Houston area and the country.

As the Texas Comptroller's Office explains, small cells are low-powered antennas that communicate wirelessly via radio waves. They're usually installed on existing public infrastructure like street signs or utility poles, instead of the big communication towers that transmit 4G signals.

The comptroller's tally shows Houston had approved 5,455 small-cell sites as of the November-December timeframe. That dwarfs the total number of sites (1,948) for the state's second-ranked city, Dallas.

"Houston is in the vanguard of small cell permitting in Texas, and not just because it's the state's largest city; advocates have lauded its proactive approach to 5G. Other cities, particularly smaller ones, are lagging well behind," the Comptroller's Office notes.

According to CTIA, a trade group for the wireless communications industry, 5G holds the promise to deliver an economic impact of $30.3 billion in the Houston area and create 93,700 jobs. The group says industries such as health care, energy, transportation, e-commerce, and logistics stand to benefit from the emergence of 5G.

"Maintaining world-class communications infrastructure is a requirement for success in a rapidly changing global economy. Small cells and fiber technology are the key foundational components for network densification and robust 5G. Cities like Houston that have embraced the need for this infrastructure will see the benefits of 5G faster than others," Mandy Derr, government affairs director at Houston-based communications infrastructure REIT Crown Castle International Corp. and a member of the Texas 5G Alliance, tells InnovationMap.

Derr says leaders in Houston have embraced the importance of small-cell technology through "reasonable and effective" regulations and processes aimed at boosting 5G capabilities. Three major providers of wireless service — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — offer 5G to customers in the Houston area.

"More small cells and fiber provide greater and faster access for the masses, enabling the connectivity that is essential to our businesses today — whether it's accepting payments on a mobile card reader, completing a sale on the go, or reliably reaching consumers where they are," Derr says.

In a blog post, Netrality Data Centers, which operates a data center in Houston, proclaims that Houston is shaping up to be a hub of 5G innovation.

"Houston has always been on the frontline," Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a 5G roundtable discussion in 2019. "It is who we are. It is in our DNA. We are a leading city. We didn't wait for somebody else to go to the moon. Or to be the energy capital of the world. Or the largest medical center in the world. But you don't stay at the front if you don't continue to lead."

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