Smartphones, wearable technology, always-on mobile devices–now, school buses are following suit, offering wi-fi connectivity and real-time monitoring to extend learning and create safe environments.
The Huntsville Independent School District in Texas is deploying wi-fi connectivity on its school buses to help extend students’ internet access in a rural area where many students lack home connectivity.
The district covers a large geographical area of nearly 650 square miles, and some students spend up to 90 minutes one-way on a bus to school. Because approximately 3 hours of the day might be spent on a bus (more if students participate in extracurricular activities requiring travel), district administrators wanted a way to give students access to the internet and to learning resources during such a long stretch of time.
Huntsville has deployed a one-to-one Chromebook initiative, and district administrators said they want students to use their Chromebooks as much as they can.
“We really wanted to be able to provide wireless access to our students, because some students are on the bus quite the length of time,” said Dr. Howell Wright, superintendent of the Huntsville School District.
Next page: How the Texas district brought its vision to life
Huntsville partnered with Presidio to envision what the ideal school bus looked like, and safety and connectivity were top on administrators’ wish lists, said Bob Daughrity, Presidio’s director of education solutions. Real-time access to the district’s vehicle computer system, enabling fleet managers to send and receive alerts, as well as bus monitoring, were included on the wish list.
After envisioning and outlining the solution, Presidio deployed 3G/4G connectivity for wi-fi on district school buses, along with rugged Intel processor-based tablets for student tracking and driver information.
Automatic Vehicle Location via GPS with Geo-Fencing enables precise bus tracking. Fleet managers can monitor driver behavior in real-time, and also can monitor the condition of the vehicle itself.
Guided by Presidio’s Internet of Things (IoT) Smart Transport architecture, the holistic solution integrates hardware, software, data and connectivity, which runs on technology from Cisco and other partners.
Presidio created an app that alerts parents when their children get on and off the bus. Buses also feature live video cameras to relay information in real-time to school administrators and emergency responders in case of any incidents.
Flexibility and customization according to the district’s needs were key factors in creating the solution.
“It’s not a ‘Here’s what we offer, now figure out how to make it work for what you need,’ said Tim Hookes, director of transportation for the district. “It’s ‘What do you need and how can we make our solution better for you?’”
“IoT is reminding us that technology’s purpose is to improve our quality of life,” said Shawn Rahn, vice president of IoT at Presidio. “The school bus solution here is part of our initiative around a smart and connected community. The wi-fi on the bus isn’t just about a convenience factor–it’s about quality of life. This is about enabling kids.”
Huntsville plans to park its buses in areas with high concentrations of students who lack home internet access, enabling them to gather a certain distance from the bus and use their district-issued Chromebooks to study and complete assignments.