Student safety on campus has long fallen to university police departments, security guards, blue lights and traditional 911 emergency services. But one company is attempting to put all these resources on to a student’s smart phone.
TapShield provides an app tailored to college campuses and global enterprises that magnifies public safety data and improves emergency and crime detection.
The set up
When a user launches the app for the first time, they are prompted to enroll and provide pertinent emergency information that could help police or emergency responders – allergies, medications taken or other pre-existing conditions. The full list of voluntary profile information includes height, weight, hair color, picture and medical details. All information is optional and is then stored locally on the user’s device and only shared with emergency personnel upon triggering an alert.
The app leverages geo-fencing technology, which enables a TapShield client – a university, for example – to establish a coverage area for its students, faculty and staff to use the app. A geofence is a virtual perimeter of a real-world geographical area that is configured to include a set of boundaries, a campus for example.
TapShield works with its clients to define the boundaries and coverage area that will best suit each environment. Using GPS tracking, TapShield can then pinpoint the real-time location of a user as well as whether they are within the geo-fenced boundaries.
Triggering an alert
When an alert is triggered within the geo-fenced area, the emergency alert is sent directly to campus police or similar local authority in the hopes that they would be the quickest to respond, as alerts are detected just five seconds after being sent.
When an alert is triggered outside the confines of a geo-fenced area, the alert is essentially becomes a standard 911 call. There is no need for the user to dial 911 themselves, rather the app does it for them.
TapShield’s geo-fencing technology also enables a university to maintain more than one area from a single account, a handy feature for institutions with multiple buildings or departments that are scattered across a metropolitan area.
TapShield does not continuously track its users, rather it only locates them when an alert is triggered. That being said, the app is continuously connected via VoIP, establishing secure, two-way communication between users and emergency personnel. Alerts are triggered and sent upon opening the app on the user’s device, with a 15-second window that enables the user to cancel the alert with the user’s PIN.
In order to activate a TapShield alert, the user must have cellular data connection, whether mobile carrier plan or WiFi. The app uses cellular data to provide real-time location updates, profile information, real-time messaging as well as secure phone calls to campus dispatch or security operations centers.
An added feature to the alert functionality is TapShiled’s “Yank” technology, which enables the user to trigger an alert by pulling their headphones out of the jack. This feature can be toggled on and off in the settings menu and allows for a discreet and convenient means to alert authorities of an emergency. Acting as a kind of silent alarm, Yank instantly sends the user’s real-time GPS location and personal information to authorities.
The entire process can be seen in TapShield’s instructional video.
Strength in numbers
On the law enforcement side, the company’s “Shield Command” provides a web-based management system where incoming alerts can be viewed and assessed. Shield Command automatically displays the user’s real-time GPS location and personal profile data, allowing dispatchers to react quicker and more effectively. The web portal also provides reverse-911 functionality, enabling dispatchers to send mass emergency push notifications to all TapShield users.
In fact, this ability to call on the TapShield community of users is what sets the solution apart.
The app effectively crowd sources its user base to obtain a real-time report of community events, crimes and alerts, providing each TapShield user with the pertinent safety information they need. Users can then leverage that information, along with their community, to ensure personal safety as they navigate their local area.
Many college students are more active at night than they are during the day, doing everything from going out for a late night snack or going for a run.
Using the Entourage feature, a TapShield user can chart on a map the route they intend to take and set an estimated time of arrival. If the set arrival time is not met within a given window, TapShield first sends a message directly to the user. If the user does not respond, TapShield sends notices to the user’s contacts and then an alert to emergency services.
The app also allows users to see where other community members are, and alerts local responders in the area if and when their help is needed. For example, a CPR-certified TapShield user could be closer to an alert location than an emergency response team and could administer aid while help is on the way.
TapShield is currently deployed at the University of Florida along with a number of corporate enterprise accounts.