The Internet of Things is not new. Companies have been implementing sensor-based technology for the last several years to get a better understanding of a multitude of conditions in their buildings regarding everything from their workflow patterns to their energy use. We believe that the next, and possibly most important, use of these technologies is for building safety. We designed our LockOUt SmartBoot System using Internet of Things technology, developing sensors designed to create instant alerts when needed, and building equipment that can relay the necessary messages. By leveraging Cypress BLE Modules, we’ve had the unique ability to create a low-energy, secure, and ultra-fast network built specifically for the SmartBoot system, that is always on, and always open in the event that one of our system triggers is activated. In this article, we’ll discuss how the SmartBoot system directly utilizes blueooth and IoT technologies to enhance building safety and lockdown effectiveness, as well as some of the potential for a system utilizing the IoT with bluetooth technology in the future.
By utilizing bluetooth technology, and dispersing the modules throughout a facility at appropriate distances, we’re able to create an unbroken communication mesh that ensures no corner of a campus or complex is left unaware if a lockdown were to occur. The ability to cover an entire campus with our BLE mesh is an integral part of the SmartBoot system. Fortunately, by pairing our team with the team at Cypress, we were able to leverage their bluetooth chips, paired with our SmartLights to create, house, and utilize the bluetooth mesh effectively. “The reason that the CYBLE [bluetooth] parts were selected were because of the ease of use and the integrated radio and processor," explains Mike Biggs, Field Sales Engineer for Schillinger Associates, Inc., a key partner in connecting the LockOut Company with Cypress, “The tools allowed for quick communication between the Light and the Smart Bootbox. This reduced parts in the system by being both the radio and the processor. The connection was quick and easy." The proliferation of ready-made bluetooth solutions has created an environment where developing a system such as the SmartBoot has become a possibility. While certainly not easy to do, we believe that advances in the ability to create bluetooth low-energy (BLE) mesh, will allow us to create even better safety, security, and lockdown products in the future.
Multiple Effective System Triggers
A system designed to assist building occupants such as staff or students in the event of a building lockdown wouldn’t be very effective if the activation system was cumbersome or ineffective in some other capacity. Thanks to bluetooth technology, we are able to give our system several triggers so there is the highest probability of a lockdown occurring as early as possible should a threat become present. Here is a brief list of activation types for the SmartBoot System:
- Sensors placed in the SmartBox boot housing system detect if a boot has been pulled and immediately activate a threat-level red lockdown.
- Our mobile application, when triggered, communicates with the bluetooth chips in the SmartLights via your mobile device’s bluetooth function and activates the appropriate lockdown level protocol (yellow, orange, or red) based on user choice.
- Gunfire, when detected, immediately activates a threat-level red lockdown.
- Police, from their desktop application, may activate a lockdown for your school if necessary, which will then immediately activate the system.
By allowing for multiple different lockdown triggers to be utilized simultaneously, bluetooth technology creates an environment that is not restricted to a single protocol, but one that can be built upon and improved over time to create the most effective safety and security system possible.
While the ability to locate and track movement throughout a facility or campus has many benefits, including tracking student or visitor location, asset location, entry point use, or other generic movement, the key function of this feature in the SmartBoot System is the tracking of gunfire. While this is a function of our system that we hope is never used, through a combination of our bluetooth sensors and gunfire tracking technology, we’re able to pinpoint the location of gunfire in a building. As a threat moves through a building, first-responders will be able to pinpoint the location of gunfire, which will allow them to quickly intercept the threat, rather than wasting time attempting to determine their location. Seconds are vital in a lockdown situation, and the ability to quickly locate a threat can save lives.
System Security & Readiness
By using bluetooth low-energy (BLE) chips to communicate throughout the mesh network, a system can be utilized for a single purpose more effectively, and at lower cost, than with traditional wired, or even wireless networks. A closed bluetooth network means that your system is always ready for activation, as no other processes are running over the network, and is always secured using encryption technology. Further, with an unpowered lifespan of up to 24 hours, even if the power to a building is cut, a bluetooth system with residual power built in, such as the SmartBoot system, can operate for a full 24 hours before requiring power. This ensures that the alert of a system lockdown can reach police, via bluetooth, through a mobile network not tied to your building power supply should the wifi be disabled. “It was very important that our system didn’t shut down just because the power went out," says Rob Couturier, CEO of the LockOut Company, “by using bluetooth to pass communication through our mesh, and by removing the physical pieces, like the SmartBox and SmartLight, from the building power supply, we make sure that the system can operate 100% independent from the building power."
With Bluetooth and the IoT, the possibility for safety and security applications are endless. While we wish that the need for applications and systems such as the ones we build were not necessary, they are, and they are important to keep potential victims safe from those that would do them harm. Mike makes a powerful point regarding this and we agree with him wholeheartedly when he says, “I have worked on many programs throughout my career as an engineer and [in] sales. I have never been so please to work on a system as I am on the LockOut system. I have even advocated for the system at my school district and other districts my family is involved in. It is horrible that we need this system, but this system is needed, and it will save lives." It’s important to us to keep people, especially students and other vulnerable individuals, safe. We’ll continue working with this wonderful technology to do exactly that. At the LockOut Company, we may be engineers, but we’re also parents, husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters, and we want nothing more than to protect those we love. We believe continuing to advance technology is one of the most powerful ways in which we can achieve that goal.