Mobile devices have revolutionized how millions of packages are tracked in transit, giving consumers and enterprises insight into the locations of thousands of trucks on the highway. Now, school bus tracking solutions are bringing the same idea to the most precious of packages: our children.

Every day of the school year, roughly 480,000 school buses carry 25 million children to or from school. This accounts for more than half the number of students in the U.S., according to the American School Bus Council. With a large percentage of the student population riding in school buses, districts must make school bus safety a priority. This includes ensuring that students get on the correct buses and disembark at the right stops.

Mobile Devices Revolutionize Student Transportation

Local school districts are turning to school bus tracking systems that help drivers, parents and administrators keep an eye on students during their daily bus rides. The New Caney Independent School District in New Caney, Texas, has adopted Secured Mobility’s SMART tag technology on board its fleet of over 100 buses, which carries 8,000 students each day.

The system uses a combination of RFID-enabled ID cards and GPS-enabled Samsung Galaxy tablets. Every student receives an ID card, which records when and where students get on and off of their designated bus. When a student swipes their card along the tablet’s built-in RFID antenna, the system will accept or reject the student’s ID based on real-time information from the cloud-connected database. This significantly reduces the risk for error when loading and dropping off students.

“In the first two months of 2015, the tablet solution performed flawlessly and was extremely reliable,” said Josh A. Rice, director of transportation and fleet services. “With the introduction of the Samsung tablets, the district has been able to keep spare devices down to a bare minimum, which has reduced the overall cost of running the program. To ensure security, the district distributes the tablets to the drivers and then they are collected at the end of the day.”

The SMART tag solution is much more than a one-trick pony. It also integrates with the routing software so that each driver has a display of which students should get on and off at each stop, and it alerts the driver if there’s a discrepancy compared with the route plan. In addition, students can use the RFID-enabled ID cards throughout the school day for building access and lunch purchases.

SMART Tag Technology Receives a Warm Welcome

In order to make parents’ lives easier, they can sign up to receive alerts informing them that the bus is within 10 to 15 minutes of their child’s stop. If a parent cannot make it to pick up their child, they can upload an up-to-date list of people who are authorized to pick them up into the system.

“The SMART tag technology has been well received by parents and the school district’s administration,” said Rice. Although the loading and unloading process might take slightly longer for each child to swipe their card, it’s well worth the peace of mind that comes with knowing the kids are safe. In addition, bus drivers love the tablet’s large screen, easy-to-use layout, and durable design. It’s definitely a rugged tablet and it’s a very workable solution for us.”

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Gary Wollenhaupt

Gary Wollenhaupt is a veteran of the transportation and logistics industry, with carrier-side experience in intermodal, rail and inland and ocean shipping verticals, managing corporate marketing and public policy initiatives. He's also worked as a reporter for a daily newspaper and in corporate and agency public relations. Follow Gary on Twitter: @gary_writes

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