Now parents, schools can keep track of children with SkoolSmart’s RFID-based ID cards

14th Nov 2018
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This Bengaluru-based company helps ensure children are safe on and off campus.

Children's safety has always been paramount for parents and has become an increasing cause for concern.

Srinivasa Rao Saripalli

With this in mind, Srinivasa Rao Saripalli, Prashanth Narayana and Siva Janardhan M founded SkoolSmart in 2013. SkoolSmart designs RFID-based cards and readers that enable tracking children on- and off-campus.

Srinivasa says,

“When I worked in the telecom space, most of the people focussed on vehicle tracking with GPRS-GPS system. But once a student de-boards the school bus, he/she is not tracked. This got me thinking about how to ensure student tracking. I had school-going children at that time. I worked with my team on integrating radio frequency technology into the tracking system.”

The smart part of the tracking device is that it combines all three technologies – RFID, GPRS and GPS into one.

Today, SkoolSmart devices are being used by 50 schools across Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Vijayawada, Hosur and Puducherry.

The workings

The end-to-end service provides two kinds of technology: a tracking device (RFID with GPRS-GPS sim card reader) fitted in the bus, at school gates, and at different locations in the campus, and RFID cards (RFID chip fitted on ID cards) to students.

The radio frequency identification card (student ID) catches radio signals emitted by the reader when the child boards the bus as well as when the child enters the school campus. The cards can track student movement within the campus using Wi-Fi.

Once the student boards the bus, the GPS card inside the device detects time and location. The GPRS card sends this information to the centrally located application in the server. This then generates alerts through an app for parents.

SkoolSmart, children, safety
The founder, Srinivasa Rao Saripalli, standing beside one of the school buses

When the student enters the school campus, the RFID-GPRS reader fitted at the gate detects the ID number and attendance is recorded by the teacher.

To use the student tracking system, the school management has to first provide on-campus requirements for card readers. The SkoolSmart team then surveys and suggests locations. The gate reader can detect radio signals within a range of 70 -100 metres, whereas the bus reader can detect signals within 15-20 metres.

Srinavasa says the company designs and manufactures all products and services in-house. SkoolSmart has developed most of its technology at its R&D centre in Bengaluru.

The application can track a number of vehicles, the number of kilometres covered, over-speeding, and has a panic button that can give access to the location and generate alerts for the school admin.

The administration can view all reports on a dashboard classified according to class, sections, routes, location, number of students in the bus etc. The smart pick-up app helps parents upload a picture on to the app if the driver swaps with another colleague for that particular day and route. The security guard at the school can verify the moment the bus enters the campus through the web portal.

The routes are optimised through paid Google Maps that can help schools find the best route for children. The visitors and parent management app monitors those who visit the child on campus.

Challenges

While the SkoolSmart founder believes his team was technologically equipped, their main challenge was to convince schools to adopt the integrated tracking system. “Before even listening to us, people used to tell that we already have vehicle tracking. So we had to be patient and explain all the details of our service. Once they understood that SkoolSmart was an integrated student tracking system, they subscribed,” says Srinivasa.

Data protection

The app is available both in both iOS and Android versions. The data generated is cloud-stored on servers. The school administration has all this data as web reports stored in their system. “We use third-party servers of Amazon and Microsoft Azure. All the data is secured by them. The team at the central monitoring system tracks the system continuously during school hours. If there are hacks, the entire system will be shut down (as alerts of intrusion are received by our software team) immediately. School authorities and parents would be informed about the shutdown. We have not had any such incident so far," says Srinivasa.

Competition

While Ospox has GPS tracking, CCTV cameras, and real-time data recording, NorthStar provides black boxes, sensors, driving data transmitted to server through an Android app.

Safer Kids, Letstrack Kido are the companies that provide GPS-tracker wrist wearables for children. They have emergency buttons, can make and receive calls from pre-programmed numbers and features an emergency button that enables live location tracking at any time. AppAlert is similar to SkoolSmart, but has a mobile-only school bus tracking system without the RFID technology.

Dhundhoo is a homegrown startup that provides a GPS-based vehicle tracking system. It helps track buses and driving patterns of drivers and makes it possible for parents to track their children’s commute.

The business and sector

There are some strict policies and guidelines that school buses need to adhere to. Some of these include – ‘School Bus,’ must be written on the back and front of the bus. If it is a hired bus, then ‘on-school duty’ needs to be mentioned, and all buses must have a first aid box and. Also with increasing crimes and violence against children, CCTV cameras are mandatory.

A report by WHO on road safety stated that the mortality rate of children is as high as 19 in a lakh. Looking at this statistics, there are several GPS solutions and technology-based companies focussed on school bus security like Opal Solutions, ATIC and startups like Thiruvananthapuram-based TrackSchoolBus and Bengaluru-based Northstar and Purvathana.

SkoolSmart earns its revenue through annual charges from schools. They are charged Rs 1,200 - Rs 1,500 per annum per child. Srinivasa declined to disclose the annual turnover, but adds, “The company is growing 120 percent year on year. But we are not looking to raise funds at this moment. The major investor is Exicom Telesystems based in Gurugram holding a majority stake.”

The company plans to expand its operations by March 2019 in the existing customer cities as well as to such as Indore, Ahmedabad, Pune, Chandigarh, Jaipur in India and UAE (Dubai), and in Africa (Kenya, Egypt, Nairobi, Uganda).

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