THERE’S NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO RIDE THE SCHOOL BUS.
Transforming the way Huntsville, TX, students ride the bus The extensive Huntsville, TX, School District serves 6,300 students across 644 square miles of bus routes. That translates into bus rides of up to three hours per day for some students. And when you consider time spent traveling to athletics or field trips, it means some students are on the bus until late at night. That’s a lot of idle time.
While school administrators and parents strive to make the classroom and the home conducive to learning, was there a way to enable students to learn on the bus as well? And for administrators, was there a way for fleet managers to reduce the high cost of bus maintenance? Or for transportation directors to shorten bus routes? And finally, how about extending connectivity to include the whole community?
LOOKING FOR A WAY TO MAKE THE RIDE MORE PRODUCTIVE AND SAFE
The school district wanted to turn all that idle time on the bus into schoolwork time by connecting the bus with Wi-Fi. “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,” noted Dr. Howell Wright, Superintendent of the Huntsville School District. What’s more, for many students without Internet access at home, it might be their only opportunity to connect online. At the same time, for Huntsville parents and school administrators, knowing the whereabouts of their children and students was a big concern. But for that to happen, there needed to be a way to keep track of when students “check on” and “check off” the school bus. Further, fleet managers concerned about bus safety — and reducing maintenance costs — wanted to be able to monitor both the vehicle and the bus drivers in real time. They wanted transparent visibility into the whereabouts of the buses at all times and to be able to map turn-by-turn directions for drivers.
A CONNECTED SCHOOL BUS IS THE WAY TO GO
Drawing on its extensive experience with K – 12 education clients and the Internet of Things (IoT) Smart Transport architecture, Presidio worked closely with the school district administration on a holistic solution that integrates hardware, software, data and connectivity, running on technology from Cisco and other specialized partners. Presidio deployed 3G/4G connectivity for Wi-Fi on school buses, as well as rugged Intel®-processor-based tablets for student tracking and driver information. An application for parents can provide notifications when children get on and off the bus. Precise tracking of bus location is provided through Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) via GPS with Geo-Fencing. In addition, live telematics enable fleet managers to monitor driver behavior as well as the condition of the vehicle itself. Tim Hooks, Director of Transportation for the Huntsville School District, said, “It’s not a ‘Here’s what we offer, now figure out how to make it work for what you need’, it’s ‘What do you need, and how can we make our solution better for you?’”
A BETTER BUS RIDE FOR EVERYONE
Wi-Fi connectivity on the bus extends the classroom by providing students with more time to study. This is especially valuable for students without regular Internet access at home. Huntsville parents are also now given more peace-of-mind with notifications via the application. Real time telematics provide mechanics with the ability to check on more than 2,000 different readings from the engine computer and provide the driver with more accurate information. The bottom line is a reduction in maintenance costs.
NOW’S THE TIME TO GET READY FOR THE CONNECTED COMMUNITY OF THE FUTURE
This Presidio solution is scalable and flexible, and can be expanded as necessary and incorporate enhanced services to improve community interaction and experience. “[It] allows for expansion in the future, growth based on what technology improvements take place, as well as what our wants, needs and desires may be a year from now, three years from now, five years from now,” observed Hooks. But the real story goes beyond just a vehicular solution. By using similar technology at the bus stops, in the school system facilities and throughout the community, and integrating it with third-party agencies like emergency response, community organizations and citizen experience services, Presidio is able to deliver a completely connected Huntsville community — with continual improvements in the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.