Episode 22 – Cisco tackles the Safe Schools issue with cutting edge technology

Connection
Connection

Episode 22 tackles the tough issue of how to make our schools more safe!  Traditional school security measures have not kept pace with today’s physical and digital threats. The threats to our students and educators are becoming more and more complex, and despite the significant investments already made, you want to do more to protect your educators, students, and staff from the threats of violence, intimidation, crime and cyber-attacks.

Cisco talks about some of the available technologies to help keep students and faculty safe including Meraki MV Cameras, Zebra Security card printers, Network Security and Informacast.

Our guest include a great panel from Cisco and Zebra

  1. Kayleigh Cassidy – Meraki Channel Account Manager
  2. Jay Gaworecki – Zebra Identity Solutions Manager
  3. Craig Cole – Cisco Safer School BDM (Remote call in)
  4. Tom Willoughby – Singlewire NE Territory Manager (Remote call in)
  5. Andre Stoykovich – Program Manager, Cisco Marketing

Listen to more TechSperience podcasts.

This is the Transcript of the TechSperience Podcast – Episode 22

Penny Conway:

Welcome to another episode of Connection TechSperience. I’m your host, Penny Conway, Senior Program Manager for workplace transformation here at Connection. And I have a whole crew here with us to talk about all things safer schools. Traditional school security measures really haven’t kept pace with today’s physical and digital threats and the threats to our students and educators are really becoming more and more complex despite the significant investment’s schools have already made.

And schools really want to do more to protect educators, students, and staff from the threats of violence, intimidation, crime, and cyber-attacks. So, when I say we have a full crew, I mean we have a full crew. Let’s go around and do some quick introductions starting with you, Kayleigh, what your role is and what brings you to the podcast today.

Related: I’m In Charge of School Safety – Where do I Start?

Kayleigh Cassidy:

Hi Penny. Kayleigh Cassidy. I’m the National Channel Account Manager supporting Connection for our Meraki product line.

Penny Conway:

Welcome Kayleigh.

Andre Stoykovich:

And I’m Andre Stoykovich. I’m the Program Manager for Cisco Marketing.

Penny Conway:

And on the phone, Jay.

Jay Gaworecki:

This is Jay Gaworecki. I’m the Zebra Identity Solution Manager handling all ID, printer system.

Penny Conway:

And Tom.

Tom Willoughby:

Yeah, this is Tom Willoughby. I’m with Singlewire Software and I’m here representing our solution in Pharmaca today.

Penny Conway:

Great. And last but not least, we have Craig Cole on the phone who is our Business Development Manager for Cisco Safer Schools. And Craig, why don’t you introduce yourself a little? Well I already did, but why don’t you tell us a little bit about Cisco Safer School program?

Craig Cole:

So yeah, so Cisco looks at the state preschool program comprehensively. We use the department of Homeland security model, which focuses heavily on prevention and protection and mitigation of events that take place. And then our program has been working in 100s of schools across the country with the advisors in those schools to develop our kind of five pillars. We think every school should have those basic start with access control, video surveillance, collaboration tools and notification platform and cybersecurity. And on, on today, we have experts from each of those areas and we can, we can dive into those and kind of explore what they mean and how you apply them in a school environment.

Penny Conway:

Love it. So, there’s really, when I look at those five pillars, kind of looks like it breaks out into two different areas, the physical security within a school. And then of course the network security in a school. Which is probably what an IT director has more visibility to more experience of. So, let’s start with physical security. What is Cisco’s portfolio and really value around what schools are dealing with today? What, what are schools dealing with, with physical security?

Kayleigh Cassidy:

So, I’ll step in here on the Meraki front. So, Meraki holistically, we are the cloud networking portion of Cisco. And one the products that we offer is our physical security devices. And obviously with schools we want to make sure that we’re providing our students with a really safe environment that they feel comfortable for their teachers, the students, the administrators coming in every single day. So that’s where the Meraki portfolio steps in.

And one of the things that differentiates us from everyone else is it is all managed through a central pane of glass, which is our dashboard. All products are managed through this dashboard. But so are our cameras. And why is that important is because we can actually give granular access control to anyone to access those cameras depending on if it is a security officer, it’s a teacher, it’s the principal. They will able to get their actual access to see the live feed that’s coming from these cameras.

And it’s also being stored right on the device. So, we have an encrypted, so you don’t have to have an NVR and you can just go in, see the footage and you can see it live. So, imagine how much safer that’s making our schools by being able to really quickly see where these cameras are and see what’s going on with those. Another great thing with this is motion detection. So, you can go in and you can choose a specific area that an incident happened, and you can find out any instances that happened within say the past 24 hours.

So, you can really get granular on what you’re seeing in that video footage as well. So those are just a couple of reasons why we differentiate ourselves from the competition and why we make schools a lot safer with our physical security.

Penny Conway:

So, when we look at the things that we’re really kind of trying to look for, like what those cameras are looking for, what those motion detectors are looking for. You know? I think this is a, a really sensitive topic when you’re talking to schools like we’ve talked on another podcast recently. If it shows up in the headlines, then that guaranteed that school has an opportunity to go in and talk about security.

If you’ve got some sort of school shooting incident, you’ve got kids bringing weapons and you’ve got bullying going on in hallways. And so, it’s interesting when you say the motion detector. I think sometimes there might be things happening on the down low that isn’t maybe so apparent. And so what are some of the things that that motion detector is giving to schools, information that schools are getting to maybe say, “Hey, we’re noticing a behavior that while it’s not so apparent that might be something that is a safety risk to our students and teachers and staff.”

Kayleigh Cassidy:

Exactly, Penny. I think it all comes down to the response time that we’re able to have. So, if we hone in on a very specific spot within a camera, maybe it’s in a cafeteria where there’s an incident, you can find out what was going on. But another layer with a Meraki solution is that it actually provides analytics as well. So, you can see what are the high traffic areas and where are the students going within those environments as well. We use that with our heat mapping with the Meraki solution. So, not only do you have motion response, so you can respond quickly, but you also have analytics so you can be more proactive to your pr- approach as well.

Penny Conway:

So, say something’s actually happening in a, let’s say a, a hallway or something or outside of a hallway ’cause the hallway I think is a good one because it’s not always where you have cameras. But say there’s something happening in that area. You’ve got kids that are either starting to beat up on another kid or someone’s doing something to prepare for an incident or to cause an incident. How fast is that notification and who’s it going to like what’s the response capability for a teacher or admin or IT?

Kayleigh Cassidy:

It can be instantaneous. And we can actually build in with our API APIs because we do have an API, an open API solution. So, we can bring in other partners to make sure that they are getting those notifications as quickly as possible. If there is a movement within a specific area that typically there’s not supposed to be movement, we can get that instantaneous. For example, maybe you have, your school is shut down at night. Obviously, no one should be in the halls between 12:00 AM and 5:00 AM. If there is movement within those cameras, we can get notifications sent out to those administrators as quickly as possible. And you as an administrator who is managing this dashboard, you determine who receives those messages as well.

Craig Cole:

There’s a couple of really fascinating kind of subtopics that we’re addressing here with Meraki. There are two things that we’ve found the schools really have challenges with at a little bit higher level. One, one of those is that technology often isn’t well integrated. So, they have these little technology silos deployed. But when the technologies don’t communicate together, that actually creates a lot of complexity and they just end up not using it.

So one of the things we, Meraki is doing, and we’ve worked a lot with the Meraki team and other partners, is those notifications that she mentioned when, when a camera detects something, they can now pass those notifications directly into another technology platform like Singlewire to be distributed effectively and let people know very rapidly that there’s a, there’s an incident possibly happening. And one other topic we’re kinda hitting on here in general is the proactive nature.

Any technology that’s deployed and camera systems are a great example. Traditionally they’ve been investigative tools where you simply went back and saw what happened the next day. One of the things that the schools and the market and parents and legislators are asking us for is how do we be more proactive? A physical security camera system without an analytic is a very reactive tool. So, adding these analytic capabilities that we’re discussing right now does actually solve that challenge or help with that challenge.

So, two key trims, one is be proactive and the only way to really be proactive with a physical security system is to have analytics on it. And the second key trim is, is to definitely make sure that your technologies are well integrated together so that they can create workflows from Meraki into Singlewire in this case, as the example.

Penny Conway:

It’s interesting cause we look, I think the, I think the physical security aspect of it. That’s a great point. You know, you, have cameras, schools have cameras everywhere. They have the ability to go back and look at things. But in order to create that safer school environment, you have to take the more reactive or proactive approach in order to actually make a difference. You can go back and say, “Oh, that student did that.” But if there is no way to notify you of the next time or for you to have any sort of learning around it, then it, it kind of doesn’t make a difference.

You can legislate and we know how well legislation works and rules like rules are made to be broken (laughs) it feels like sometimes. But being able to have that proactivity and collect that data, you’re now pulling more and more data and more and more information into a school system. And we know that schools have a high sensitivity to data protection. So, how is the school, how are you guys helping a school manage that additional data in as well as the standard data they’re trying to protect? Does that make sense, Andre?

Andre Stoykovich:

Yeah. So I, looking at the different layers of protection, what you’re talking about in terms of like Kayleigh mentioned encrypting the video in there so that that’s protected, but also from the network side of the house, when we talk about being on the school network, protecting that all together, avoiding any sort of phishing email scams where people can actually get into the network and then take that sensitive data, nowadays.

Kayleigh Cassidy:

I think the Meraki solution would also fit into this conversation as well because we do have the end to end, endpoint security. So, you’re receiving your advanced malware protection, your intrusion protection as well. So, you have that end to end solution where you’re securing the student’s environment as well, not only physically but also on the network side. And again, coming back to having a full solution under the Meraki portfolio, you really have everything under one single pane of class. So, like I was saying about the physical, physical security, you also have it within that same dashboard as well. So, you have the view, you have the visibility, and you have that control. So, it’s the physical security and the endpoint security and you’re just tying it together under one portfolio.

Penny Conway:

So, what is kind of, that’s great technical terms, but if we’re could sorta kind of take it down a couple of steps to more of the inside of the school. What a teacher, what a, an admin or a security officer is seeing. And Craig, this might be a good one for you. ‘Cause I’m imagine you’re talking to schools every day. What are some of the, the high-level kind of security point security risks that schools are actively looking at today where they’re building these things into their RFPs and knowing that it needs to be something that they think about the next school year?

Craig Cole:

Our overall security approach really, and we talk about this a lot, we’ve worked with DHS on this. It’s an all hazards approach. And whether that’s physical or cyber, we have to be focused on all hazards. It’s one of the kind of the foundational principles of security is to not over-rotate to one thing. So we talked a good bit about the physical side of things, the physical threats as we’ve mentioned that everything from, from an allergic reactions in the lunch room to the hazards and the drop off line of getting hit by a car, potentially the, the bus stop challenges all the way across the board. So we don’t want to over-rotate to any one aspect. We want to secure everything. And cyber is actually the same way. We see a kind of a convergence of physical and cyber threats in the world right now.

Most physical incidents have been forecasted on cyber. Most bullying incidents we see that that manifests physically were started in cyber these days. So the two worlds are kind of coming together. On the cyber side of things, we notice a myriad of creative, somewhat destructive behaviors that we have to address. And bullying is becoming a big one and that is increased the kind of the self-harm rate due to cyber bullying. We see an uptake in that certainly is a top concern for many States as they put out requests for solutions.

Not only is it the students themselves, but the networks, we see phishing attacks and we had a school in Montana had all their data encrypted and Bitcoin was demanded and that attack was found to be a state sponsored attack from a terrorist organization in Serbia. So, schools, a school administrator suddenly has to deal with that level of challenge.

So, what we typically promote is to keep it fairly simple, understand that security has to be end to end. Everything. So, the GPS system you put in your bus needs to, you need to have a conversation with your cyber specialist about how to secure that. The end points we put in the schools or the devices that teachers holding their hand comprehensively need to have a security strategy around those things.

And then the actual, the technologies used, whether it’s endpoint security or network level or data security, there will be different technologies, but it needs to be comprehensive and you always need to ask that question any time a technology is implemented. How do I secure it?

Penny Conway:

On another podcast we did once we were talking about sort of those, all of those smaller pieces, like when we think of security, we think of the servers, we think of cameras, we think of devices. But it’s those other devices that are kind of out there like a GPS. I never would have thought a GPS and I didn’t even know there was a GPS in a school bus. Did you know? You probably know because you sell this stuff (laughing). But I would never think that when a school bus had a GPS, but it makes sense. I thought school bus drivers just knew where to go because that was their route.

But the idea that you now know where every single student in a district potentially lives by pulling data out of that. What are some other, I imagine there’s other sort of devices that teachers bring in into the classroom that IT has no idea that they even brought them in and that they’re connected to the internet and have the ability to send data out. Do you, how can you guys help someone sort of see all of that and understand what a teacher brings in might actually be riskier than it just a tool that they’re using to teach with?

Kayleigh Cassidy:

I think another solution that we could bring in here is systems manager, which is again comes back to that single pane of glass. But you are actually managing devices, whether it’s BYOD, so bring your own device. So, if the teachers are bringing in their devices, then you’re able to protect them on a level that you need them to be protected as well. Also, all the iPads for those one-to-one learning initiatives that so many schools are putting in place now. You need to protect those devices as well.

Another thing that comes to mind for me is Umbrella. That’s a solution that we protect the DNS layer. So if I have a student that’s going to google.com and mistypes it, we want to make sure they’re getting redirected to the correct site and they’re not going to anything malicious. So, we’re protecting that as well. But we are protecting those end user devices.

Penny Conway:

That’s a good one. So, students that are, I do it all the time, I type in the wrong email address and I know a lot of that is like, or not email address but web address and it immediately takes me somewhere. And a lot of those can be phishing sites if you, you type it in the wrong way. So, you actually have the ability to redirect a student back to what, “Hey we are pretty sure you meant google.com not Google.con.” And kind of immediate that. ‘Cause that’s the human element of cybersecurity we always say is like the big problem. It’s we can put up everything on our servers, we can have monitoring, we can have analytics, but all you need is one student to click on a link (laughs). Right?

Kayleigh Cassidy:

Exactly. Yup.

Andre Stoykovich:

I definitely think it’s been very interesting to learn more about Safer Schools ’cause I transferred into my own life. I’ve got two kids; I’ve got one in high school. And so that immediately brought me to, what is my local school district doing to protect my children. So, I’ve been more of an activist and advocate talking to people at the school system. Just learning that my school is now getting ready to install a security card printer so that they’ve got at least that level of physical security.

They do have cameras, but they’re also looking at what are the updates that we can make throughout the school to be more. So, it’s that type of interest of just learning about this and how everyone can be active in it. Because I’m sure some school systems are well advanced, some may not be. So, as a parent it’s like your job to ask those questions too. When we talk about being an advocate, you know? Are your kids safe too? So, it’s, it’s something that each one of us should have a good understanding. What does our school systems currently look like?

Penny Conway:

Oh, that’s a another. I only have a two-year-old, so I haven’t really, (laughing) I’m not asking what, daycare, what they’re doing yet (laughs).

Andre Stoykovich:

Baby gate security. You’re good.

Jay Gaworecki:

They don’t even ID.

Penny Conway:

No, she doesn’t need her ID. I can barely remember the security code to get into the daycare door. I’m like they change it once a year and I’m like, “Oh please not again.” The other, we’re talking about the, the student, like our kids and students in general. I think we know coding is a huge, huge thing in schools. I think kids start to learn to code at six, sixth grade around there, or Andre maybe even sooner.

Andre Stoykovich:

It all depends upon the school system. I mean, my daughter did a bunch of coding as a kid and her friends, they do it all the time. And she scared me one day when she comes downstairs and goes, “Hey dad, I wrote my first Trojan.” I was like, “Oh, great.” (laughing).

Penny Conway:

But this is, those are the like kids are learning to code and we’re preparing them for that, that next step of go to college, maybe become an engineer, maybe become a web developer. But there’s the elephant in the room that we’re kind of growing hackers, whether they’re hacking for good or they’re hacking for not good. And sometimes I think that’s the missing a blind spot for some schools.

They’re not worried, they’re worried about everything coming in from the outside, but not necessarily what students on the inside actually have the capability to do. If you were to Google a how to hack a printer or how to hack a computer, it’s something like 23 million search results with videos with step-by-steps. So, I think the internal threat of what students have the capability to do is something that schools really need to be aware of. Right?

Andre Stoykovich:

Oh, absolutely. I mean it’s totally different in terms of what the kids are capable of doing and how fast they’re learning technology nowadays. I mean, we take it for granted because we work in technology all day, but from that level, when they’re in the basics of learning stuff, they absolutely absorb and get consumed with it so they could go down the wrong path. So, it’s like you said, it’s important to protect from within also.

Penny Conway:

Yup. And having those signal-like notifications through the Cisco portfolio.

Kayleigh Cassidy:

And I think one big call out here too is that you have to think a lot of the schools that are out there right now, they have extremely lean IT staffs. So, you have all these students that are well beyond and so advanced in their coding. But we need to make sure that our networks and our infrastructures are keeping up with them and they need to be easily manageable, because the small IT staffs, whether it’s two, three, four, five, maybe people, they need to be able to stay one step ahead of them as well.

Penny Conway:

Right. I, and I think you’re lucky if you have five IT people, unless you are like a major school district with 60,000 students. I’ve talked to IT directors that, I said, “Hey, what are you, what are you responsible for device, your one to one initiative, your printers, your classrooms or labs, things like that.” And her response to me was, “If the bathrooms or if the toilets had computers on them, then I would or were run by a computer, then I would be responsible for the toilets.”

So, it’s a great point. Resources are so slim in schools probably slimmer than the budgets within schools. And so being able to have those tools and those eyes and those analytics like to take all that data and give them insights into how to proactively manage what’s going on is huge for a school.

Andre Stoykovich:

When we think about what’s going on in the schools, so should something happen, the whole power of like InformaCast and actually what that can really bring to the table when we talk about, “Okay, something has happened. Now, how do we respond?” So, I’ll let Tom kind of touch upon InformaCast because it’s a very powerful tool to have.

Tom Willoughby:

Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for that. You know, there’s really this buzzword that’s going around in the industry, especially within schools right now. And those buzzwords are network infrastructure consolidation. So just know that every school that we work with, whether it’s a small school or one of the largest in the country, the endpoints that have there, they’re actually pretty similar, right? So, they have IP phones, they have computers, they have tablets.

You know? Most of the students and staff have their own mobile devices. In some cases, some of the schools with bigger budgets have updated to IP speaker systems. The older ones have not. And they still have some old antiquated analog paging systems, et cetera. And one of the real challenges that a lot of the schools are facing right now is, hey, if we have any kind of emergency weather the most extreme type of emergency, like an active shooter down to anything like cyber security threat. How do we get communication out to the appropriate people as quickly as possible?

And really what it comes down to is speed and reach. Right? So, the two quantifiable measurement in the critical communication space. It is how fast can I get a notification out and how many end points can I reach. And again, the challenge here is all of the systems that we didn’t talk about, those phones, those PA systems, in most environments, those systems are not connected. So, you can imagine if your systems aren’t connected and there’s some type of a active shooter, I mean w- what do, what are you doing?

You go into a mobile platform and sending out a text message to everybody and then going over to your PA system and then broadcasting to everybody internally and maybe having a different system as well. And how does that work in a real emergency situation? And that’s really the question that we answer. And what InformaCast Fusion is, is it really is a network infrastructure consolidator. It takes all of those endpoints and it makes it now manageable on a single pane of glass for critical communication.

It allows for the input of several different trigger methods. So of course, we have Meraki on the call today and certainly several of the schools that I work with have Meraki cameras. And we talked about earlier in that call about situations where there might be a time of day where someone’s not supposed to be in a specific area of the building. As soon as somebody enters into that specific area, an alert can be generated and it can target whoever the security resources are, whether they’re onsite or at home.

Simultaneously kind of locked doors, it can alert the local P staff. It can do whatever you want. And on top of that, really one of the main things that a lot of the schools are following right now or we have argued, active shooter protocols that are in place like ALICE protocol and Run, Hide, Fight. I’m sure just about everybody’s heard of one of those at this point. I really focus a lot in that new England region. And the new England region very heavily to focus on ALICE protocol.

And for those of you that aren’t aware, really what that acronym stands for is alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. Now, inside of the alert portion of that, what they’re really talking about is the difference between an effective alert and ineffective alert. And I’ll start with an ineffective alert because it’s really the obvious, right? If we look at what happened down in Parkland when there was a shooting situation, somebody pulled the fire alarm and when the fire alarm was pulled, students started following their evacuation path into the hallway, which was of course a very bad situation. That’s where the shooter was located.

Now, an effective alert is when someone can get on a phone from wherever they are or click a single button and send out clear communication to everybody in the entire school at the exact same time, which can say something along the lines of, “There’s an active shooter inside of the building on the first floor in the A wing.” That automatically provides everyone a much better chance of survival because they know exactly what situation is going on. They’re not following their normal evacuation paths and they have more information.

Now with that, there’s still more decisions to be made, right? So what do I do when I hear that active shooter alert. DO I lock down where I’m located. Do I prepare to counter and fight for my life or do I evacuate the building? And the only real way to know what to do next is with the constant feed of information. And that’s where we utilize collaboration resources. For example, Cisco WebEx teams, phenomenal collaboration resource.

So, if you can imagine this right? Now, if somebody were to come into the building and let’s just say fire a weapon, first of all, there’s these new receivers that are out there that can detect gunshots called gunshot detection systems. So, as soon as the gunshot goes off, our receiver registers that and gunshot and that gunshots and the signal into InformaCast and alerts every single person that you would want to be made aware that the gunshot occurred.

If you wanted to do things like lock down doors, deactivate door access control cards and things like that, you can certainly do that. But that notification will go through your PA. It goes on the desktops and laptops and reaches people on their mobile devices. Peace App gets a notification. Anybody that has Motorola radios, they’re receiving the notification as well, et cetera. Just by, again, every endpoint you can imagine that notification goes to. Right?

Now, simultaneously on the back end. While all of that is happening, a bunch of folks from a security call or on your security team are all brought into the same WebEx team space. Now all of those individuals are instantly brought into that room and can collaborate about the situation that’s happening. The active shooter has moved over to the B wing. “Okay, let’s quickly click this button and evacuate everybody in A wing now and put everybody in the B wing in lockdown mode. Right? So that collaboration effort on the backend is with allowing us to continually send communication on the fly, in real time to everybody that’s in the situ- situation so they have the absolute best chance of survival.

Penny Conway:

It’s amazing when you think about how many lives could be saved by having that notification system in place. And I don’t know if any of this off the top of your head, you probably don’t. But how many schools have this type of system actually in place?

Andre Stoykovich:

I don’t know if my daughter’s school has that system, but Tom, as you were going through that whole thing, I got a notification. My school’s email is back up. So we’re, we’re, we’re operation.

Penny Conway:

(laughs) So yeah, you’ve got some sort of, some sort of notification system. But that is, I think that that, Kayleigh, you hinted to it, the, the resource part of it, the limited resources and the limited budget. If a school had a wishlist and obviously schools that have incidents I think are more prone to put this type of thing in place. But when we think about like how a school can actually…

Let’s face it, Parkland’s probably not going to have another incident in the same way. But other schools can learn massive amounts of data from what happened there and implement things like that to keep this from happening. ‘Cause a kid getting bullied, you don’t want that to happen in your school, and you might, if something happens, put a policy or a technology in place, but you don’t want to wait for an active shooter situation for you to get actually a system in place to do some notifications and make sure that you don’t have any casualties.

There’s a component to this as well along with I think the, the security card piece of that to actually have some maybe room to room control. And Jay, you have some insight into that, and I’d love to hear more about the security card piece of this.

Jay Gaworecki:

Yeah, absolutely, Penny. Thank you. So, at Zebra, we believe that safety and security really starts with identification within the schools. And this has come a long way with regards to schools that are bringing ID cards onboard. At Zebra, we offer complete turnkey solutions to produce full color photo identification badges for the students, for faculty, for visitors, and what have you.

These ID badges are not just plastic ID badges anymore. Okay? A majority of the badges that are being used will have technology either within the card and being added to the card. This includes a utilizing of magnetic stripe encoding. Barcodes of course are simple but effective ways of being able to obtain information about the students and faculty on demand. At any event, within the school, outside the school, using mobile devices.

And as you go into schools, you’ll see more of those in the hallways. You’ll see student monitors with mobile devices actually enabling them to read the card in real time. So if a student is not supposed to be in the hall, they can read the card and say, “No, you’re supposed to be in English class right now. What are you doing? You don’t have a pass.” Furthermore, it takes this to a above and beyond just being able to direct a student to their proper location, but it can auto generate things such as detention in school suspension, email notifications to any type of faculty member with set protocols that are within on the back end of the system.

So, where people thought ID badges, “This is your picture, this is who you are, I see your name. Okay. You’re a freshman.” That’s just the first level of identification within the schools. It’s really comprehensive and it’s gone above and beyond, just that photo ID badge, starting at this point and moving forward.

Penny Conway:

Goes back to using that student data that you’re collecting constantly on your students and actually making it actionable for you. I think there is a local school here last year, maybe a couple of years ago where they had a student who had graduated the year before, in the school with a knife. And no one really thought anything of it because he looked just like a student. I think he had his old ID badge from the school.

And why would you think anything when you’ve got schools of thousands of kids and you’ve got a kid that looks like a kid, what action can you take? Just seeing someone other than get back to class. And so, having sort of a badge that reads their data and tells you this kid isn’t even enrolled here, he shouldn’t even be here. It’s fascinating.

Craig Cole:

One of the things we across the country, there’s a lot of fascination with all the emerging technologies. There’s drones and databases and we’re working with a university that has AI driven robots that did roam campus. And there’s also a lot of serious decision challenge I think amongst school leadership about what to do. Because they get hit with so many bright ideas from so many companies.

And the market’s a little gray right now as to where do I start? Where do I go? What do I actually need to do? We always recommend consistently, and I’m meeting with hundreds and hundreds of schools. We always start in the same spot. The first thing you need to do is lock your doors. And we really say a little broader, it’s a bit facetious to say this, lock the doors. But it really is access control before you worry about artificial intelligence and robots and drones and all the cool things that can be done. The first most foundational step is lock the door and don’t let people in your school who shouldn’t be there.

So that really is the access control principle. And having a proper badging system, an access control system and ID management, visitor management platform like we’re talking about right now is the very first foundational, fundamental step insecure in school. Limit control, limit the access points, and know who’s coming and going from those access points. It’s first thing. And then probably right behind those two are video surveillance and notification which we’ve also covered are the other two technologies the schools are acquiring most rapidly. But locked doors have situational awareness, video surveillance and be able to notify people of events. That’s really what is needed and what we recommend. Lock the doors.

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

Andre Stoykovich:

So, Craig, do you see much more that being the first prominent step that schools are taking or do you see them really adopting and embracing that?

Craig Cole:

Absolutely. What we see is a lot of schools struggling and if we, whether we use the access control piece and card use, we were just talking about the notification platform, either one, it applies to both. We see schools struggling with which technology to choose. And what they typically end up with is a couple of different technologies. They may pick a couple of different notification platforms or for access control, they have a, a different visitor control system than what they use for badging students, then what they use for door access control for employees.

And that really becomes the biggest challenge. Most schools we see want this, and they understand the first thing I need to do is control access, but they struggle with taking a solution and sticking with it and they inadvertently create some complexity that I mentioned earlier. And then they kind of cycle on the struggle because as we said, they lack the resources sort of to manage a very complex environment.

Jay Gaworecki:

In the higher education arena. And this is breaking down into the K-12 environment. They’re looking for a one card solution. So, one card solution, say with a smart chip, you have the ability to, for access control, it can be dual authentication with options or what have you. But you also have the ability to utilize that smart card or other activities such as logical sign on onto the PCs. We see this in universities, now it is coming down to K-12, obviously.

So, there’s a lot of applications that are being utilized right now more in higher education, pulling into K-12. Bus tracking is one. If for example, last year, a 16-year-old got onto my son’s bus, who is in middle school just to get a ride to the next block.

Penny Conway:

Wow.

Jay Gaworecki:

He succeeded. Okay? Got on the bus, got where he wanted to go, got off. Bus driver said, “Who are you?” After he got off, that’s not good. So, what we see now is actually the ability to utilize an ID card or when the students come on, they tap the card, you’re able to get on this bus and it’s all tracked and monitored. That was a little scary. It could’ve gone the wrong way. He just needed a ride. But you can see that it’s helpful to have this type of technology, not only on school premises put off, including events like football games, et cetera. So, the cards are very important and where we’re going with the card it’s very important for the schools to understand.

What’s nice about card printers these days is they’ve come a long way. Our printers are able to upgrade to different technologies at any time. So if you want smart card encoding a year from now, you can do that. It’s fully upgradeable by the end user. Or max encoding. Or even UHF encoding which is a long distant range reading. To have readers at certain events that can read the student’s badges within 50-foot range. Some of us, to the parents’ things, like tracking and what have you. But this is all for security and safety at the school. So, at the end of the day I think that it will become more palatable as we move on.

Penny Conway:

Yeah. And I think anytime you can introduce a piece of technology to a school that has the ability to upgrade and has some longevity to add to, that’s the kind of investment they’re looking to make because budget dollars are thin. And I think when it comes to security, there’s probably a lot of government funding, grant funding initiatives, states are putting initiatives together, first aid for schools.

So, what resources are available to a school to start maybe getting some funds to put something like this in place because it’s probably not an IT budget line item in its traditional form. But these are solutions that are managed by IT. So, where does the funding come from for this stuff?

Jay Gaworecki:

The grants are available and there’s a number of organizations actually online and they reach out to the schools and they help with these grants. Grants for photo identification systems are, there’s plenty. And there are organizations that help with these grants to the schools, they reach out to the schools. Zebra is affiliated with a number of them. And we’re here to help get a direction on how to learn more about grants and how to obtain them.

A photo identification system is $2,000. I mean, to you and me, that’s a lot of money. But for $2,000, the safety and security of every student, every faculty member, every visitor. That’s not a lot of money to have the starting point of safety and security within the school. Grants are available and I’ve seen many, many schools utilize the grants to take the first step.

There are several card printer platforms from low end to high volume. Some of the schools have a printer in each school, depending on their size. Some of them have one in the central district, so they will get a card printer that’s for higher volume and they will do all the batch printing in a centralized region. And then you pass those out to the schools. So, it’s a really good point. And there’s a lot of grants available right now

Penny Conway:

And are some of these technologies available through E-Rate programs and like part of their proposals for E-Rate?

Kayleigh Cassidy:

Absolutely. So, when you look at the E-Rate funding, funding in category two, that’s where your network security will actually apply. So category one, we unfortunately won’t fall into that on the Meraki side. But category two, you can absolutely leverage that discounting. And one of the best too is as long as a school qualifies for E-Rate, they can apply for these discounts. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to apply their E-Rate funds for this, but at least they’re getting the discount.

So, that’s absolutely something that’s available when you’re looking at the network security, is utilizing the E-Rate funds. And even last year speaking to grants, there was a safer schools grant out there as well. So, it’s always being knowledgeable about what programs the federal government and state governments are offering and utilizing those programs.

Craig Cole:

One of the biggest things you also see, a lot of the budgets in the schools come from different departments. And we haven’t really talked about the people challenge of safety yet. We’ve kind of alluded to it, but we really need to have a collective group of stakeholders in a school come together for a comprehensive plan. And that’s the facilities department. Often facilities will be buy in the door, access control or the cameras IT, the network security and cyber and transportation.

We’ll have the bus platforms and things. We need all of those people to kind of come to the table together and look at a comprehensive plan because it’s possible. And often that one group gets budget and another dose or one group has surplus and another group doesn’t. But if they come them together and kind of say, “Here’s the end goal of where we want to be, from a security perspective,” then they can use those budgets in aggregate.

They obviously can’t share transfer budgets very often. But knowing that, hey, we want to start with access control as an example. I want to start with network security. If one department has some budgets, they can get that component and make sure that it supports the overall longer-term plan. So, getting the people together is often a huge piece of solving a budget problem to move the whole thing forward and it kind of breaks loose some of the stagnation we see on decision making.

Jay Gaworecki:

I do have a couple grant programs I can mention. There’s one called Project Prevent Grant Program. It’s a $10 million grant program from the federal government called Project Prevent. Very easy. And the other one is the School Climate Transformation Grant Program. That’s a $40 million grant program that’s online available to anybody, anyone within the schools to take a look at.

Penny Conway:

So, we have talked about all thing’s security with Cisco, Meraki, Zebra and the whole team here. Everything from that physical security to keep students, staff and administration safe all the way to the network security. That full end-to-end point security within a school. And if you are a school right now that is trying to understand how you put all these pieces together, where you start and how you pay for it, reach out to your account manager at connection.com here. We have fantastic resources from the team that you’ve heard today, as well as your account manager that can help you identify potentially some grant resources, can help you with the E-Rate resources that you need and really help you have a safer school with Connection and Cisco. Thanks so much for joining me today.

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