Posted on December 15, 2020
At AIA 2020, R.E. Dimond and Associates’ James Darnell and Tim Hill presented Trends in Technology with special guest Jason Starkweather, Director of Technology at Brownsburg Community School Corporation. If you missed the presentation, click HERE to view a recorded version. A summary narrative is presented below.
“In 1878 we saw the first telephone switch,” says James Darnell, VP of Information and Communication Technology at R.E. Dimond and Associates, to a virtual audience of the 2020 American Institute of Architects presentation. “Then in the 1960s, we saw the emergence of ARPANET.”
That eighty-year period between the phone switch and the precursor to the Internet wasn’t stagnant. Still, Darnell’s presentation underscores just how much faster the pace of innovation in telecommunications in the 61 years since ARPANET and the switch to ethernet-enabled devices has been. “Telephones were the first system to move from circuit and proprietary protocols to packet switching. Then cameras, now tools, clocks, speakers, PA systems, and just about everything,” he says.
To understand how far telecommunications technology can go in a school or university, Jason Starkweather, Director of Technology at Brownsburg Community Schools District, joined Darnell to share the upgrades his district has undergone. Fresh off a three-year renovation of the fast-growing community’s high school, the District also has two middle schools, seven elementary schools, and a PreK and Alternative Learning program that educates 9,500 students. R.E. Dimond and Associates received a Monumental Award for the work completed at Brownsburg High in 2020.
Brownsburg Schools set new standards with 10,000 connected devices, including vape and keyword sensors
“Our campus lockdown system is a good showcase,” says Starkweather. Like many schools today, Brownsburg installed a lockdown system that worked off a single panic button in the main office of each building. “We wanted to upgrade this using our existing equipment,” says Starkweather.
The District recognized they had phones in every corner of every room and hall, and as Starkweather says in the presentation, “Every phone looks the same, so every teacher—including substitutes—would know how to lock down the building.” A single red button and a separate confirmation key are on each phone. As he explains in the video, this button configuration solved a critical user interaction challenge for the District. “We didn’t want the police coming if a custodian was wiping down the phone,” he says.
Within about five seconds of a lockdown command, first responders are en route and a series of automated text messages and phone calls go out within the district. Camera systems relay information to first responders, doors lock, and telephones and PCs display security updates, too.
The theme in much of the presentation focuses on sensors and how ethernet and WiFi come together to drive smart buildings and smart cities. “This is one of the fastest-growing areas out there,” says Darnell. “This is all stuff you don’t have to think about. It’s all just happening, and you’re going to see more sensors, sensors, sensors.”
At Brownsburg High School, sensors can detect everything from vape clouds to THC and listen for keywords.
“Sensors look for aggression and loud noises,” says Starkweather. “Like a scream or the sound of breaking glass.” For instance, a staff member yelling specific keywords inside a locker room can activate a call for help. Once any sensor is activated, cameras automatically retain and share five minutes of prior footage for further investigation.
Starkweather also discusses intelligent workout rooms and equipment that monitor student’s form to protect against injury, along with new theater systems thoughtfully designed to avoid lag and latency in performances and more. “We have over 10,000 devices connected to our enterprise network,” he says with pride.
Tim Hill, R.E. Dimond’s VP of Electrical Engineering, joins near the end of the presentation to talk about Sweetwater Music’s expanding northeast Indiana campus. “The multi-building campus has been under construction for twelve years,” he says. “They wanted to link these buildings, but with some sort of redundancy.” The solutions discussed in detail include a beautifully resilient and straightforward “ring network” that circles the perimeter of their campus.
As the world continues to move to networks locally and on the Internet, Darnell, Hill, and the R.E. Dimond and Associates team are leading the way. “Truth is,” says Darnell, “Everything we’re talking about here is some form of AI. It’s all about machine-to-machine learning and machines doing some of our thinking for us.”