New tech screens school visitors and sends them alerts

Facial recognition screens for active legal injunctions

New tech screens school visitors and sends them alerts

A new technology is becoming available to improve safety at schools by scanning and closely monitoring visitors.

Bennett Stone created Visitor Aware while his daughter was in elementary school in Arizona. He noticed the school didn’t have an effective way to monitor and track who was coming and going from the school, “just giving me and other parents peace of mind to know who's around their children.”

The web programmer began working away in his at-home office, first searching for a solution that might already exist. When he didn’t find anything, he decided to create his own. It also meant consulting with experts, “every single part of visitor aware has been driven by feedback and input from schools and law enforcement.”

Stone ended up with a program that scans visitors’ IDs and uses the information in conjunction with encrypted facial recognition to screen them against sex offender registries, government watchlists, and active legal injunctions. It flags any potential issues and prevents guests from entering the building, while approved guests are given a pass to proceed. It also offers tools for volunteer management, tardiness tracking, student pick-up, and reunification in the event of a school lockdown.

Similar cloud-based technologies are being used to improve safety in a variety if workplace settings.

Singlewire Software specializes in safety communication during critical events by using its InformaCast software that sends alerts to electronic devices like computers, phones, and tablets being used by staff and students. It operates in 80 countries and works with more than 5,000 organizations, hundreds of which are in Canada. 

When the company saw Visitor Aware, it knew it had to incorporate it into its suite of tools, as it competes with other companies using technological advancements to improve workplace safety.

“Our school customers started asking us for help with visitor check-in and student management,” says Singlewire CEO Paul Shain. “Visitor Aware develops state-of-the-art safety solutions that help organizations keep their building secure and their people protected, which pairs perfectly with our mission of keeping people safe and informed.”

Stone was happy to sell his program and join forces with Singlewire. “We were always really impressed by the range of devices that they were able to send notifications to,” says Stone, who is proficient in coding, but couldn’t understand how Singlewire manages to reach so many different devices and operating platforms all at once. “Some of the stuff that they're able to send notifications to, it's like magic to me how they do it, I don't understand it.”

Singlewire has always had the tools needed to communicate with students and staff during a crisis, but it couldn’t communicate critical information to visitors, until now, says Brent Kiedrowski, vice president of strategic initiatives for Singlewire.

Kiedrowski says the company has been in contact with its Canadian customers letting them know about the new Visitor Aware feature, “and we're already getting inquiries from them to add that to their portfolio.”

The company plans to use other integrations like QR codes and intercom connections, but for Stone, he’s just excited to see his tool spread. And when he goes to his daughter’s school and hears they use it every day, “I still get great joy out of that…I’m like yes!”