IoT Classroom Technology
K-12 STUDENTS working from home like their parents or attending school part of the week in a hybrid model will return to classrooms full-time before long, as will IoT integrators in search of lucrative markets to pursue. Indeed, from smart whiteboards and automated attendance tracking systems to autonomous lighting, HVAC, and physical security systems, modern classrooms are filled with opportunities for Internet of Things solution providers.
"A few years ago, schools were jumping to replace gym lighting with smart LEDs," says Jack Knocke, owner and president of IoT Advisor Group, which helps integrators explore new markets, including education. "The ROI is clear on that with three- to five-year paybacks, and many finished that project.”
Now, security cameras are often the door-openers, Knocke says, adding that these IP cameras then lay “a foundation for monitored doors, windows, fire alarms, and similar systems."
Knocke's clients work to provide comprehensive security services and put installed cameras to better use as well. For instance, many schools monitor the cameras themselves, sometimes with low-tech solutions. This delays response from authorities in emergencies, however, so integrators are connecting the cameras to police stations, Knocke says. "We can send output from all cameras to the dispatch of local safety organizations within eight seconds."
Thermal scanning kiosks capable of spotting potentially infected students and staff based on body temperature are another entry point for integrators, and ZLH Enterprises responded to that need early in the pandemic, explains Zina Hassel, CEO of the Manalapan Township, N.J.-based technology consultancy and IT solutions provider.
"Schools could use their CARES funding, because these obviously weren't on the budget before," says Hassel. “These scanners can be used for door access as well, so they're useful after the pandemic." Schools can use a hand-held touchless thermometer for a second reading like restaurants in many parts of the country must do by FDA order, and Hassel included one with each scanner order.
Hassel also supplies schools, including at the college level, with trackable student ID cards that work for attendance, door access, and food services. ZLH often handles networking for security companies, providing internet access to monitor all the systems. "We try to extend the monitoring to areas like energy use, heating, and even tracking if servers are off when they should be," she adds.
Both Knocke and Hassel warn internal school IT personnel, often hard-pressed to keep up with technology, may slow sales and implementation. The layer above may be even worse, as education executives are often less tech savvy than decision makers in other industries. Integrators will need to help both groups get up to speed.
In addition, for school districts, "everything circulates around money," says Knocke, adding that schools are "terrible about RFPs and funding cycles." A strong ROI makes it easier to get funding or a grant, he notes. "The best sales scenario is when you can use vendor financing to avoid out-of-pocket costs, and the integrator has a competitive bid contract with the school district."
Still, schools need the same security and operational monitoring as every other business, especially now. IoT integrators just need to be aware that breaking through requires patience, client education, and more patience.
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