• What are “Connected Schools” and How Will They Revolutionize Education?

What are “Connected Schools” and How Will They Revolutionize Education?

Something I ponder about quite frequently is a simple, yet profound fact that I first learned maybe two years ago. A nugget of information that has come up repeatedly in conversations, documentaries, and podcasts that is, for lack of a better word, daunting. A piece of data that can simultaneously scare and inspire, depending on which lens it’s being looked at through. This statistic, that is at the core of almost everything around us, is about exponential technology.

Deloitte defines exponential technology as “innovations progressing at a pace with or exceeding Moore’s Law” that “evidence a renaissance of innovation, invention, discovery… and have the potential to positively affect billions of lives.” Moore’s Law is named for Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, who predicted that transistors on processors (used for processing power) would double every two years. Mainstay Technologies puts it into more digestible terms: “The smartphone in your pocket provides a better communication tool than the President of the United States had access to just 25 years ago, and provides access to more data than he had access to just 10 years ago.”

From the 1960’s to today, computer processing power has increased by about a trillion times. This explosion has fueled technological advancements in countless sectors, allowing companies like SpaceX to develop innovations with a massive scale impact. SpaceX was founded and operates on one main goal: help humanity become a multi-planet species. Currently in the process of launching thousands of satellites into the Earth’s orbit, SpaceX is creating a satellite-internet megaconstellation called Spacelink, aimed to deliver internet access to the globe’s most remote regions, essentially connecting all of humanity via the internet. Establishing an interconnected internet service in space is also the beginning of Elon Musk’s plans to eventually colonize Mars, an idea that may seem crazy and far-off to some, but if Moore’s Law has shown us anything, it’s that the amount of time between profound technological advancements is shrinking, and the limit to this law has yet to be reached. So life on Mars may arrive sooner than we think.

But I digress. This blog piece is not about SpaceX, but it is about an exponentially technological idea that mirrors the incredible way Spacelink’s internet is connected via satellites. This blog piece is about “connected schools” and how they will revolutionize education.

So what is a connected school? Monarch defines a connected school as a learning institution that is connected to the cloud, so various aspects of its technological and physical makeup can be accessed and controlled from one cloud-based platform. The main components of this concept are:

  • Centralized platform for access control and user management

  • Video security cameras with powerful AI capabilities

  • Lockdown capabilities in response to outside threats

  • Environmental sensors to detect meaningful changes across facilities

Centralized Platform – With a centralized platform, administrators are able to easily manage video cameras and user permissions across the district. This cloud-based platform can be accessed on desktop or mobile, and is truly at the center of the connected school. Video cameras can be managed, live footage can be shared, visual evidence can be searched and pulled up, teachers and other employees can be assigned with specific building access at certain times, lockdowns can be initiated, and AI analytics can be displayed and digested with ease; all from one convenient, cloud-based centralized platform.

Video Security – Monarch’s cloud-based video security cameras record and retain footage for up to a year, and provide powerful and insightful analytics, facial/object recognition, search features, and one-step footage file sharing via email or SMS, all from one convenient centralized platform. These cameras can detect meaningful events and send alerts instantly, cutting down on response time and providing accurate evidence after the fact. Especially useful in our current pandemic climate, cloud-based video cameras can help tremendously with contact tracing; if a student tests positive for COVID-19, it only takes a couple simple search commands to go back through footage and see every person who came in contact with him or her. The AI in the cameras sees each face and catalogues it at the date, place and time, then references this data when asked to show all footage of that certain person. These cameras can also filter footage by clothing color and vehicle type, allowing easy access to visual evidence and live feeds, no matter what the event is.

Lockdown Capabilities – A lockdown at a school occurs when there is a threat outside or near the campus, and either the entire site or a set of entryways are locked to protect the students and teachers within. The most common reason for a school lockdown is the presence of a school shooter, a pervasive problem I’ve explored in a past blog. Once a threat is identified, most school lockdowns are initiated by a single person who has direct access to the building’s access control system, or someone has to physically travel to each point of entry to lock the doors with a key. Both of these scenarios are time-consuming and inconvenient, adding minutes to a crucial response time and potentially endangering people’s lives. With cloud-based Access Control, lockdowns can be initiated with a few clicks of a button by anyone given the access to do so, from either desktop or mobile app. This automation cuts response time down significantly, allowing students and teachers to be protected quickly and efficiently until help arrives.

Environmental Sensors – Another issue that school administrations have to deal with in 2020 is the explosion of student vaping, another example of exponential technology, actually. In the past year alone, vaping and e-cigarette use among high school students in the US has gone up by 1000%. This incredible increase in usage has obvious health implications for those choosing to partake, and once they choose to vape on campus, it also impacts their fellow students and faculty, especially when it’s done in common areas like bathrooms and locker rooms where there isn’t proper air circulation. The first step in battling this problem is aggressive, early on education on the effects of vaping, but school districts would be wise to take action on prevention in another form, to further protect the health and safety of students and faculty alike. An Environmental Sensor can be implemented to capture the physical presence of vape smoke in real-time; through this solution, administrators can see spikes in the Vape Index, which measures against a range of onboard sensors to identify the likelihood of vaping or smoking on a scale of 1 to 100. Custom thresholds can be set to send real-time alerts via SMS and email to pre-selected faculty members (like security officers or anyone in charge of discipline) so action can be taken quickly. In addition to vaping, these sensors can also pick up a variety of other types of substance readings, using the same pre-sets to alert the proper personnel of changes in environmental air quality within the school. Other Environmental Sensor readings include:

  • Air Quality Index (AQI)

  • Particulate Matter 2.5

  • Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOCs)

  • Temperature

  • Relative Humidity

  • Noise Levels

  • Motion Detection

All sensor data is easily accessible from Monarch’s centralized platform, and can be put against a timeline to give administrators a clear and complete view of when these events took place. Pairing the Environmental Sensors with cloud-based video cameras also provides a layer of visual evidence, so administrators can see exactly what happened.

The idea of a connected school is another product of exponential technology, and like life on Mars, it truly is not that far off in the future. School districts like Newtown Public Schools, Arlington Public Schools, and Morgan Hill School District have already implemented Monarch’s powerful video cameras, leveling up their entire protocols by moving security operations and access control completely to the cloud.

60 years ago, teachers were limited to chalk boards and textbooks. 20 years go, desktop computers became a staple in most learning institutions. 5-10 years ago, electronically-submitted homework became a normalized practice. In 2020, the majority of class sessions are conducted via Zoom. These technological trends in education have been building on each other and leading to a revolutionized school system; one that can be used in defense of threats inside and outside the organization, to protect students and maintain a healthy, optimized, high-functioning learning environment. Monarch is proud to be at the forefront of this education revolution, helping bring connected schools to fruition, and ready to bring this exponential technology into other sectors as well.

Updated: Apr 16

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