When schools let out across the country, ground zero for confusion, chaos, and frustration is usually the car line. Most car lines are crippled by three factors: difficult communication, loose identification, and last-minute changes. When cars show up in the car line the challenge is to know has arrived, who they are authorized to pick up, and where the children are located. As all this is becoming known, the next hurdle is the orderly movement of children from school to car. To orchestrate all of this into a smoothly running car line, driver ID and relative arrival position are key.
Let’s consider driver ID first. Some vendors approach this aspect by using hardware such as bar code scanning, RFID readers or license plate cameras. The hardware approach may look appealing but they raise two problems. First, hardware can be expensive to buy and maintain and subject to failure. Second and more importantly, hardware-based solutions only identify the vehicle, NOT the driver and is passive by design, passive in the sense that if there is an issue with a child getting into a vehicle with the wrong individual, school administrators can only be notified after the fact (usually by an irate parent).
When you turn to your hardware based identification system for answers, it can only tell (with certainty) that the child left in a blue Chevy Volt for example. But who was driving? Sure, the Volt may have had an identifier the hardware recognized but Mrs. Smith's recently estranged ex-husband was behind the wheel...now it's YOUR problem and a sticky one. Also, parents often have to drive borrowed or rental cars or may have requested that a surrogate pick up children. In these cases the hardware solution fails.
Let's move away from school-owned hardware and see if we can build a better mouse trap. Most parents and guardians show up every day with a smartphone. Some solution providers create an app that allows parents to communicate their wishes for their child at dismissal so they don't have to overwhelm your front office staff with phone call, emails, hand written notes et al... brilliant! What's more, an app running on parents’ devices can enable us to detect their presence when they arrive on campus using technologies like geo-fencing. Since they own their phone and we have issued credentials specific to each user, as long as they have the app 'open' and running we can now identify them with a high degree of certainty. Great, so let’s have a 'check in' button appear on their app when they arrive for carline so we can identify the individual...identity problem solved.
For a successful car line both driver identification AND relative position must be addressed. While it appears we have solved the ID side of the equation, what about the individual's position in line and why is that important? In order to realize the true benefits of increased efficiency while reducing the noise and chaos of 'herding' hundreds of kids to cars, the children need to arrive at the car line just in time to step into their car.
All our expected benefits go out the window if Jimmy walks outside to be greeted by one of your administration team only to find his ride is still 20 cars down the line. Conversely, if Jimmy's ride pulls up to the loading zone and there's no Jimmy, we've gained nothing. Smartphone apps can do many things but relative positioning is not one of them. From a human factors point of view, parents MUST open their app and click the button at the appropriate time in the appropriate order...the inevitability of distracted drivers needs no further elaboration. From a technology point of view, the dismissal app must be open and running in order for a parent to check in. They also must have the app’s "location services" turned on but location services use the phone's GPS capability which unfortunately is a significant battery drain. Thus, many users simply turn off location services.
Other idiosyncrasies of the devices further diminish effectiveness of phone locations. The accuracy of location services vary from phone to phone and can be affected by the parents’ settings, phone carrier and other factors. The result is a line of cars coming into the pickup area and a crowd of children coming out and little control over which children and cars belong together. Chaos still reigns. When the car line solution knows relative positioning of cars in the car line, the calm, orderly and secure dismissal of children into parent’s cars is achieved.
Because School Dismissal Manager has been automating dismissal for twelve years now, we invented it. Moreover, we HAVE solved the critical success factors of driver identification and accurate relative positioning.
If you've made it this far, I thank you and suspect you may have need for the benefits SDM can provide. Give us a call and let's explore how we can streamline your dismissal process and we'll tell you how we make it happen.