Taking a Multi-layer Approach to an Effective School Weapons Detection Program

March 24, 2022|Drew Deatherage

As of mid-March, 14 school shootings had taken place in 2022, leaving four dead and 24 injured. However, that metric is too narrow to account for the full spectrum of violence that can happen in schools. While less reliably tracked, stabbings are another fairly frequent form of school violence. And in December 2021, schools across the nation cracked down on security after a series of nationwide bomb threats were made on TikTok.

Because such an enormous range of items can be used as weapons, schools should not rely on one type of weapons detection program to serve as a catch-all. It’s critical that schools use a layered approach, which should include methods ranging from inexpensive, no-tech approaches to emerging high-tech solutions.

School boards planning to implement screening procedures should consider the full range of solutions currently available and implement those that are aligned with comprehensive security goals. Let’s look at how the technology market is evolving to better keep schools safe.

Security starts with human intelligence

In many cases, schools find that they can improve security by making simple procedural changes. “See something, say something” policies are a key example. As simple as it sounds, these protocols should be a primary component of any school weapons screening program. Encouraging students to report what they see or hear may often be the only viable way to know someone is preparing to commit violence to themselves or others. Kids see and hear a lot both during and outside school hours, but schools must provide clear instructions about what to look for and how to report potential dangers.

A tip line can be as simple as a phone number, email address or web form. Making anonymous tip lines available via multiple formats, including smartphone apps, text, email, and online, can be relatively inexpensive. A wide variety of choices exist, both for free and at varying price points. School districts even have the option to develop a custom app to make reporting more convenient for users.

Flexible low-tech solutions

Metal detectors are often the first solution schools think of when considering weapons detection. At present, metal detectors are typically only used in schools with a history of weapons-related violence. The common approach is to use metal detectors at controlled entry points and complement this with manual screening.

Schools are working to balance the security metal detectors afford with public sentiment that metal detectors create an intimidating, prison-like environment. This is where handheld metal detection wands can be useful. Handheld wands also provide flexibility in allowing schools to conduct random classroom screenings or use wands at sporting events.

For the vast majority of public schools, metal detectors may not be the right fit. School administrators must weigh the risk profile against the cost and complexity of implementation. In addition, it’s critical to remember that metal detectors are only capable of screening weapons with metal in them, which means they require supplementary procedures and equipment.

Emerging high-tech innovations

Most schools today have some form of video surveillance technology, but video analytics solutions have come a long way. Modern video analytics software utilizes machine learning along with computer vision techniques to detect weapons and other abnormalities that standard video systems are incapable of identifying. When abnormalities are detected, security teams can be instantly alerted.

School operations planning a technology refresh can add analytics-based products onto an existing system, making video analytics a somewhat more cost-effective solution. Even so, these newer platforms tend to carry a high implementation cost compared to more basic video surveillance solutions. Part of this cost is due to the need for appropriate staff training.

Because video analytics solutions are still fairly new, capabilities vary widely. This makes it particularly important to ask a lot of questions during product selection about capabilities, regular maintenance, and the level of staff training needed to get the most impact from this system.

The newest weapons detection technology solutions are radar-based systems. Because these technologies are just now coming onto the market, it will likely be a while before they are functional and affordable for a school operation, but they are a solution to watch. This emerging technology uses small, concealable signal generators and detectors to detect firearms, including those made of polymer materials, edged weapons, and even things such as canisters that are commonly used to make explosive devices.

Even more intriguing, manufacturers claim that these systems can unobtrusively cover a broad area, such as a pedestrian walkway or a lobby or school commons area. By deploying a radar-based system outside a facility, a threat could feasibly be detected before it reaches the building entrance, allowing security personnel the opportunity to intervene. 

A layered security approach

Just as these episodes of school violence feature a range of threats, school weapons detection programs should be layered to more effectively detect potential acts of violence. However, identifying the most effective layers for keeping your school safe is best done with a site security audit.

This is an area where CRUX can help. Our security design and consulting services begin by helping school districts identify a holistic approach to security that includes site assessments, well-considered response protocols, and technology investments that meet your unique needs. If you’re ready to strengthen your schools’ safety, contact CRUX.

Categories: Uncategorized

4 Key Features of the Post-Pandemic Workplace Conference Room

February 16, 2022|Drew Deatherage

Written by: Mason Brooks & Daniel Bruce

Organizations of all types are still discovering how to reinvent the workplace in a post-pandemic world, and there remains a large variation in how this shift will look  across organizations. One factor most employers can agree on,  however, is that there’s a strong need today for connectivity across the workplace. While remote and hybrid positions continue to increase, most large corporations are planning to have some balance of in-person and remote workforce. 

To ensure connectivity across the in-person and remote workforce, audio visual system design will play an increasingly important role in gathering spaces. Here at Crux, we see four key areas where conference rooms are evolving to meet post-pandemic workplace needs.  

  1. Conference rooms must do more multi-tasking 

Despite social distancing requirements, the conference room is not likely to be abandoned anytime soon. In fact, many organizations are expanding use of their dedicated conference rooms to include applications such as training, in addition to gathering teams and day-to-day collaboration. Part of this expanded use is a direct result of the fact that employers are investing more in their audio-visual system design and equipment, so they want to maximize use of this asset. 

Before committing to a conference room design or renovation, organizations should consider the full extent of how they might use the space, because their decision could dictate technology needs. 

  1. Quality experiences start with high-quality equipment

Many employees are relying on a clear audio-visual experience to feel connected with their in-office team. So, at the very minimum, organizations should be investing in high-quality cameras that provide exceptional image quality and clear sound. However, future conference rooms are going further to create an inclusive conference experience. This includes, for example, a multi-zone approach to sound rather than having a single microphone at the center of the table, and a balance of static and mobile broadcast style cameras spread across the space, both of which to strengthen sound and image clarity for remote viewers. On the other side, having a range of display screens in the conference room simulates the experience of having those remote team members in the space. 

At the foundation of this experience, however, is a robust data network. More devices mean more demand on the network and the need for additional data ports to ensure connectivity. A strong network should serve as the foundation for any conference room of the future. 

  1. Touch-free conferencing options will grow

Contactless solutions will continue to be in demand in the post-pandemic workplace. Even as COVID-19 reaches endemic status, employees are now aware of the many germs that they are exposed to through day-to-day interactions. Automated and touch-free audio-visual solutions will remain a key part of the broader technology mix aimed at reducing absenteeism through illness. 

In the conference room, this will play out in a number of ways. Employers are deploying occupancy sensors in the ceiling to turn on the audio-visual system. These sensors are already used to turn on lights and other systems; now they can trigger a screen, for example, that sends conference room users to a URL prompt or a QR code that guides their touchless presentation setup. Occupancy sensors can also update central corporate calendar applications that a specific room is in use. 

There’s also been an increase in the number of touch-free presentation solutions already available for the post-pandemic workplace. Many new options allow users to scan a QR code with their mobile device to gain connectivity to a presentation system. While dedicated touchscreens will remain in place, more conference room users will be able to navigate presentation setup entirely through their own mobile device. 

  1. At-home connectivity guidelines set expectations 

Ultimately, the remote work experience is only as good as the network of the person connecting from home. In truth, this is where an exceptional audio-visual system design can run off the rails. That’s why it will become critical for corporations with a hybrid or largely remote workforce to manage expectations. Publishing workplace connectivity guidelines is one solution. 

These guidelines should explain the steps an organization is taking to create an excellent audio-visual experience and offer suggestions for how to support this experience from home. Suggestions should emphasize network infrastructure recommendations, because the infrastructure will be the foundation of any connection. Guidelines may also include specific equipment recommendations. While these recommendations may not be achievable for every employee, they do set employee expectations and may help limit complaints about the remote experience. 

Conference room improvements are a must-have

Plenty of gray areas color what the post-pandemic workplace will look like. However, connectivity across the organization—in-person and remote—will be an expectation. In some cases, it will also be a requirement. For example, the Texas Open Meetings Act mandates that the Texas Department of Information Resources specify minimum standards for audio-video systems at videoconference meetings for public entities. While these requirements are fairly straightforward, and can be met with readily available solutions, it’s one more indication of the increasingly important role videoconferencing will play across all organizations. 

To explore audio-visual system design solutions as unique as your organizational needs, contact CRUX today.

The Big Network Infrastructure Design Change Helping Building Owners Save Money

January 18, 2022|Drew Deatherage

For the last several decades, there’s really been only one option in network infrastructure, and it’s done its job well enough. Network infrastructure design teams have relied on copper cabling as the go-to approach for most applications, with some short fiber optic runs connecting devices that may require large amounts of bandwidth.

Of course, doing something the way it’s always been done is rarely the best strategy for building owners looking to create better, more cost-effective and sustainable buildings.

By flipping the traditional network infrastructure design paradigm—that is, switching to virtually all fiber-based networks with short copper runs—building owners can gain a host of benefits.

The benefits of fiber optic network infrastructure

In recent years, a tremendous number of benefits have convinced network infrastructure design teams to move away from copper cabling and adopt fiber optic solutions. Below we outline the leading reasons organizations are making the switch from copper to fiber optic networks.

1. Fiber optic cable has a lower upfront and installation cost. While this wasn’t always the case, for the last five years or so there has been a strong cost advantage to installing fiber optic cables in lieu of copper. Today, the material itself costs less per linear foot than copper. Moreover, the lighter weight of the fiber optic cabling also makes it easier to install, lowering installation costs somewhat as well. Of course, this is only the beginning of the cost advantage fiber optic cabling offers.

2. Fiber optic networks require less space. Fiber optic network solutions require only 1/10th of the dedicated IT floor space needed for conventional copper-based networks. That’s in part because copper cables impose a 100-meter limit between each switch port and end device, demanding more specialized space for network switches. Not using copper      frees up a valuable amount of real estate.

As a case in point, when a network infrastructure design team convinced the architect of a 180,000-square-foot middle school to consider a switch from copper to fiber network, they found the design shrank from eight communications rooms to two. This simple change in design freed up six rooms that could be converted back to educational space. 

3. It’s more secure. Because optical fiber does not create electromagnetic radiation, it is inherently immune to the security breaches caused by signal snooping. The federal government has embraced fiber optic networks for several years for this very reason. Overall, it makes for a more secure, difficult-to-hack network solution.

4. It allows strong connectivity across more devices. Rather than running separate cables to a room for telephone, video and data needs, fiber optic networks can transmit each of these signals via a single piece of fiber. The hospitality industry has embraced fiber optic networks for this very reason. Hotels can deliver voice, video and data over one conductor, making a strong economic case for a several hundred room property.

Now, with increased demand for smart homes across many high-end multi-residential properties, developers are exploring how they can reap these same connectivity benefits, while reducing the network’s overall cost and footprint.

5. It’s a simpler network to maintain. Because building managers can manage an entire fiber optic-based network from a single computer, there’s less need to run around to troubleshoot issues as they arise. This can be a particularly big time-saver for multi-campus and multi-building campus environments. There are also fewer electronics, meaning fewer devices to attend to and maintain.

For one U.S. government laboratory, a switch from a copper network to a fiber optic network reduced the network maintenance team from 12 technicians to one. The 11 individuals freed up from network maintenance were put to use in more value-added ways than reactively addressing maintenance issues all day.

6. It’s a more sustainable solution. With more corporations and institutions committing to sustainability, fiber optic network infrastructure design provides an excellent opportunity to go green. These networks use less material than copper networks, reducing raw material extraction. They also draw less energy, which helps organizations in the energy footprint reduction that presents a critical first step toward achieving net-zero energy goals.

Evaluating the risks of change

Recognizing all the tremendous benefits offered by fiber optic networks over copper begs the question: Why haven’t more organizations been doing this all along?

One reason, of course, has been a lack of knowledge that a better option exists. Many network infrastructure design teams remain content to design solutions the way they always have.     Another reason is that it can be tough for building owners to make a change.

Fortunately, many manufacturers and network installers understand how difficult it can be to try something new when the existing way of operating has worked for so long. That’s why many manufacturers in the fiber optic space are willing to set up a pilot program to help organizations get a sense of how this solution can benefit them. Consider talking to your network infrastructure design contractor about connecting with a manufacturer for a pilot test of this solution.

Whether you have questions about these benefits or you’re ready to make a change, Crux can help. Contact us today.

Smart Building Solutions You May be Missing Out On

December 13, 2021|Drew Deatherage

Smart building solutions offer a tremendous amount of possibility, but few building owners seem to be capitalizing on the full intelligence afforded by smart buildings. That’s because many building owners and architects install the latest technology solutions without ensuring the maximum integration and interoperability that truly makes building technology “smart.”

Smart buildings harness the data produced by Internet of Things (IoT) connected building technologies to automate a wide range of processes. Through machine-to-machine communication, building systems can be programmed to respond to certain stimuli or preset conditions. These automated processes can drive significant reductions in operating costs and increase building safety, among other major benefits.

Yet, despite the fact that most technology systems today can be connected to one another, there often remain significant siloes between systems. Without a proactive design approach that leverages the full advantages of smart technologies, many building owners may be missing out on easily achievable benefits.

Understanding how the building systems that most owners already include in buildings can work together will allow designers to create an overall smart building strategy.

3 ways smart building solutions solve building challenges

Many building owners and designers continue to focus on smart technologies rather than smart buildings. This shortsighted approach does not fully appreciate the ways in which smart building solutions can solve a number of the problems building owners face today:

1. Smart buildings lower operational costs. Smart buildings give operators better intelligence about what’s going on in their facilities so they can find opportunities to reduce energy usage. Building sensors can provide information about how much energy is being consumed at given times and compare it to occupancy patterns, sunshade use, and a range of other data to automate energy-saving performance. When individuals leave an office or other space, this can trigger changes to lighting and temperature that prove more cost-effective.

There’s ample evidence at this point that smart buildings can reduce energy usage by as much as 23%. The payback for a building owner’s investment is becoming shorter all the time. In fact, the growing prevalence of affordable commercial IoT solutions combined with the lower price tag of renewable energy solutions puts net-zero energy buildings within easier reach for many building owners.

 2. Smart buildings support safer environments. Connected smart buildings can reduce or remove human intervention to speed response times in the event of emergencies. They can orchestrate individual system capabilities to enable more sophisticated responses to various emergency situations. This may include automating actions such as sending out a mass notification prior to a severe weather event, turning on generators or alerting utilities after a power outage, shutting down elevators and lock doors to prevent asset theft, or guiding first responders to the location where a panic button was pressed.

These safety solutions have their own impact on operational costs, because they can reduce business downtime and potentially lower insurance costs.

3. Smart building solutions increase property value. No matter what market you’re in, creating a more personal occupant experience is increasingly critical for attracting tenants. This is an area where smart technology can be a powerful differentiator. In a smart building, the arrival process for office workers, hotel guests or even hospital patients can trigger preset conditions for their rooms’ lighting, automated window shades, and temperature, among a range of other conditions. When individuals leave these spaces, this might trigger an alert for a just-in-time approach to housekeeping, keeping  restrooms and conference rooms clean, accelerating housekeeping’s response to surface wipe downs based on busier than normal usage, triggering automatic disinfection systems, and more.

Real estate ownership groups will find that they can charge a higher premium for Class A buildings outfitted with infrastructure that supports smart building connectivity.

It’s smart to consult designers early on

Building owners miss out on maximizing the benefits listed above when they do not take a holistic approach to technology during the design stage. They may leave tremendous cost savings on the table by adding smart building solutions into a facility one at a time as they become aware of them, missing opportunities for integration. They also run the risk of prioritizing one specific benefit afforded by IoT technology without recognizing how easy it is to leverage other benefits with the same data.

Creating smarter buildings requires that building owners work with their technology design consultant early in the building design to identify operational goals. By providing more information upfront about your use goals, the right consultant can offer insight into the investments and level of integration most suitable to meet your needs. If you’re developing a mixed-use high-rise with multi-family units, for example, what level of amenities do you need to offer to be competitive? What does living and working in that space look and feel like? Answering these questions can help create the right experience for your budget and needs.

In addition, smart building solutions make it more important to involve all stakeholders early in the design conversation. Depending on the number of systems these system integrations will impact, building owners will likely need to involve facilities and operations teams, security, IT and other departments in design discussions to create an effective experience.

We are happy to share with you how you can get more value from the building systems you are likely already buying—the possibilities are almost endless!

Today there are seemingly endless possibilities for transforming the built environment through technology. To start the conversation about how a smarter building might make sense for your next project, contact CRUX today.

Categories: Smart Buildings

How Is the Internet of Things (IoT) Compromising Building Security?

October 18, 2021|Drew Deatherage

It’s a sure bet that most new building projects going up today will have devices that connect to the Internet of Things (IoT), whether it’s as simple as digital signage or as complex as a complete building automation system. What’s less certain is whether system designers and installers will take the time upfront to assess possible threats to the IT infrastructure and develop a strategic cybersecurity approach for reducing the risk of these threats.

In this day and age, where hackers can gain access to a company’s financials through fish tank sensors, the lack of a comprehensive IoT security plan is downright negligent. Yet it happens all the time. These devices are an all-too-often unprotected access point to organizations’ broader networks and the critical data that lies just behind the firewall.

Part of the solution begins with recognizing that buildings are filled with IoT security risks. The next step is to put a proactive plan in place to address these risks.

Recognize your IoT security risks

The Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 research team determined that about 98% of all IoT device traffic is unencrypted, an oversight that virtually invites access from cyberattacks. While many organizations are still playing catch-up around standard cybersecurity practices, IoT devices are continuously evolving, adding a new layer to the challenge of system hardening. Many building automation systems, for example, are moving to Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) solutions to communicate across devices. These BLE-based technologies are cost-effective, use less energy, but add a new way for hackers to access data.

What’s more, there is really no way to retroactively “patch” an IOT device weakness once it has been exploited by hackers.  With few exceptions, there’s no capability for automatic security updates, such as you get with your PC. In fact, white-hat hackers disclosed a number of such BLE-based security vulnerabilities in the Sept. 2021 BrakTooth hack, and exposed several vendors’ reluctance to address these flaws.

Ensure as-designed IoT performance

To ensure that a building’s network infrastructure provides the connectivity you expect at minimal risk, it’s important to begin to consider your IoT device security as early as possible. The following five steps can help provide a starting point for creating an effective approach to IoT security.

1. Become intentional about IoT cybersecurity. The first step to reducing your risk is to become as intentional about IoT devices as most organizations are about their computer security. Designating responsibility for this area early on and developing processes for keeping cybersecurity up-to-date will be key.

2. Work with a network infrastructure designer who includes hardening recommendations in the specs. Some technology designers and consultants are beginning to include language in their specifications specific to the need for IoT security procedures. After all, these systems won’t meet as-designed performance if breached by a hacker. Responsible technology solutions designers are ensuring that building owners understand the need for a coordinated approach between product installers and their own IT departments to deliver the performance their devices promise.

3. Install products from manufacturers committed to security. Quality IoT product manufacturers have gotten onboard with the importance of cybersecurity, particularly in light of dramatic upticks in cybercrime. More data records were compromised in 2020 alone than in the past 15 years combined, according to a study from analysis firm Canalys. Responsible IoT device manufacturers are now producing hardening guides that include best practices for utilization.

4. Ensure coordination between your IoT device installer and IT experts. In the past, device installers and network managers might have only touched base to exchange IP addresses. Now, they should be communicating upfront to ensure that a strategic cybersecurity approach is in place before any device is connected to the network.

5. Consider working with a certified installer. The security industry itself is taking a more proactive approach to cybersecurity. One result has been the Security Industry Association’s 2021 launch of a Security Industry Cybersecurity Certification focused specifically on the convergence of cybersecurity and physical security. Geared toward installers and designers of security systems, the SICC encourages a comprehensive approach to electronic security and cybersecurity.

A holistic approach to building security

Although awareness of the need for cybersecurity is growing, the threat also continues to grow exponentially. Businesses, government agencies, and other institutions have all felt the pain of cyberattacks. Small businesses, which often give little attention to cybersecurity, are a frequent target of cyberattacks. Vendors’ cyber-weaknesses have served as entry points for larger companies. There’s no organization that isn’t at risk of attack.

The good news is, it’s never been easier to prepare. Awareness is growing, but so too are solutions. Working with proactive partners that can guide decision-making around IoT security is an excellent step to beginning a more holistic approach to building security.

If you’re ready to take a more comprehensive approach to building security, Crux can help. Contact us today.

Categories: IOT Security

Tips for Choosing the Right School Technology for Online and Hybrid Learning

September 23, 2021|Drew Deatherage

While online learning opportunities are now better understood, this new phase of education had a rocky start. Because of the abrupt transition from in-person to online education demanded by COVID-19, schools faced a steep learning curve as they developed online and hybrid learning experiences. Although not ready for the change, schools were forced to adapt or risk losing all connection with students. Many districts stepped up to the plate, and practically overnight, figured out a makeshift plan. 

This new approach to learning also presented rigorous challenges to students, parents, and educators. And yet, studies show that even post-pandemic, online learning will retain a strong foothold in the education ecosystem. According to experts in economics and education, a confluence of forces will likely fuel continued demand for online teaching. While most schools already have at least temporary means for providing online education in place, it’s imperative to reevaluate those solutions and develop an ongoing school technology and infrastructure strategy to continue supporting online and hybrid learning. 

In this article, we will explore the challenges and benefits presented by supporting online and hybrid learning, and the technology that can help students, teachers, and schools be successful. 

The Challenges of Online Learning

As every school district has realized, online learning is not without its challenges. Here are some of the top struggles that districts have faced.

1. Keeping students engaged. The shift to online learning happened quickly. Teachers, many of whom had never taught online, had to adapt lesson plans for digital instruction. Students needed to adjust to a new method of learning, and for many, it was harder to pay attention to a screen than in-person instruction.

2. Figuring out technology requirements. With the quick shift to digital, many districts hadn’t mapped out their technology needs, such as network requirements, which hindered their ability to create a plan and select and implement a technical solution.  

3. Securing sensitive information. Security is always a top concern for school districts and many were left unsure of how to secure sensitive information and protect portals to their networks. 

A Blended Approach to Learning: The Hybrid Model

Perhaps the biggest challenge of online learning stems from the misconception that technology, alone, can transform education. Adopting a blend of online and in-person instruction helps schools seize the opportunities that online learning has to offer, such as asynchronous learning, self-paced lessons, additional one-on-one instruction, better testing and accountability, and more. 

San Antonio Superintendent Pedro Martinez says, “I think the right mix is the reverse of what we have now. My ideal is when we can have 70 percent of students in-person and 30 percent remote.”

Enter the hybrid learning model. 

And San Antonio isn’t alone. Ten percent of district leaders surveyed by the RAND Corporation last fall said they had adopted or were considering a hybrid instructional model. Another 19 percent said they were at least considering offering ongoing online instruction.

Online learning is here to stay. While there are some undeniable challenges to online learning, potential benefits are equally impossible to ignore. 

The Top Three Benefits of Online Learning

Online learning provides many opportunities for both individual students and entire districts. Here are some of the top benefits of online and hybrid learning. 

1. Flexible learning and preparation for future employment. Some students have selected online learning as their education format of choice. With digital instruction, students can pursue asynchronous learning, which is when students can learn at their own pace and on their own schedules. It works well for self-motivated learners who do not need guidance to complete their assignments. 

Online learning serves students beyond the classroom, too, because it prepares them for remote employment opportunities (a growing trend even before COVID-19). By mastering digital literacy skills required for online learning, such as video conferencing technologies, PowerPoint, and Excel, future professionals stand out in a competitive job market. 

2. Bridging the distance between districts. The current education ecosystem is divided into two types of districts: focus districts and non-focus districts. Focus districts are defined by the RAND Corporation as agencies wherein the student population is 50 percent Black or Hispanic/Latino, or wherein at least 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Focus districts often don’t have the same resources as non-focus districts, such as AP classes or a wide range of language class offerings, which puts their students at a disadvantage when it comes to learning opportunities. 

Technology, along with online instruction, can level the learning field. For example, schools can share resources with one another, connect with students across districts, and conduct those lessons remotely. By using remote education to bridge the distance between districts, students now have the opportunity to explore subjects otherwise unavailable to them. 

3. Opening the classroom to all students, regardless of ability. Online, students can learn from the comfort and safety of their own homes. With online and hybrid instruction, students who are comfortable with a subject won’t be forced to slow down for the students who are struggling. With asynchronous learning, teachers can pay closer attention to each student’s performance and better support the students who need more help with one-on-one, individualized instruction. 

Making the transition to online learning is important, but finding the right technology is key to enabling teachers to teach and learners to learn. 

Five Questions to Help You Find the Best School Technology for Your District’s Needs

As we’ve noted, there are two major philosophical approaches to virtual learning: the hybrid model, which involves both live and online classes, and self-paced computer-based learning, done totally online, with a teacher proctoring and tracking progress. Regardless of which philosophical approach your school takes, successfully moving to an online learning model requires the right school technology to support the transition. Because online learning is different from traditional face-to-face learning, it requires different strategies to keep students actively engaged. Although engagement is a monumental challenge, the right school technology solution can help. 

When considering an online learning model, here are questions a district needs to ask in order to select the best school technology solution: 

1. How many classes are going to use an online learning model? This is critical for selecting a scalable solution. 

2. What subjects will be offered online? Teachers can require very different solutions to support teaching styles and subjects. Evaluate if the instruction is going to be conducted while sitting or moving because this can create audio and video complexities. For example, a math class is going to be more stationary while a science class may incorporate an experiment and require movement and multiple cameras to provide important views. Choose a technology that enables, rather than hinders, learning. 

3. What grade levels will be using this technology? Each age group may require a different approach to achieve active engagement. For example, what engages a third-grader will be quite different from what engages a tenth grader. 

4. Will this technology support users? This is a nuanced question. From students to teachers, it’s important to make sure that everyone using the technology is comfortable with it. Including staff training will better set your school up for success. Make sure to also consider students’ learning speeds and environments, as well as the various levels of parental engagement to support students.

5. How do we pay for this? Figuring out funding can seem overwhelming, but don’t forget that many resources are available, such as funding options offered by select vendors and TPA COVID-19 relief money. As an example, at the end of 2020, Texas voters approved a $90-million bond to pay for new technology—including cameras and microphones—that will be used to broadcast teachers working from their classrooms into the homes of thousands of students. 

While determining the right school technology solution requires the consideration of many variables, the best solution should be scalable, engaging, and accessible. If you need help selecting your school technology solution, figuring out your network requirements, or want to ensure that you’re keeping your information secure, talk to a professional. 

That’s where Crux comes in. 

CTA: Crux can help

Building a virtual learning environment that actively engages students, helps level the educational playing field, and protects information is a daunting challenge. But you don’t have to do it alone. Crux is here to help you understand your options and help you create a safe, connected environment. Our team is equipped to assist with connectivity, LTE network, budget, and more. 

Connect with Crux, and together, we can create a roadmap for your district’s success! 

Categories: Consulting, K-12, school safety

Liberty Hill ISD Embraces Fiber Rich Networks

October 24, 2019|Drew Deatherage

School Sees Major Benefits from Fiber-Rich Network

Liberty Hill ISD becomes one of the first (if not THE first) school districts in Texas to see the benefits of using “fiber to the edge” technology and is rolling it out in their new Santa Rita Elementary School, which is set to open in 2020. Santa Rita will serve 800 students in its nearly 106,000 square feet of new space.
The District is focused on creating space that is flexible and adaptable, so the use of wireless networks will be pervasive. With the ever-increasing demands of wireless, and overall data networks evolving faster than ever, the District’s IT leaders are under pressure to provide technologies that are fast, reliable and future proof. CRUX and LHISD’s IT team did a lot of research and determined that going with an Optical Local Area Network (OLAN) was the right solution.

There are even more market factors to consider when thinking about the data network in today’s schools:

  • The steady increase in the demand for bandwidth. Overall, bandwidth has increased 45x since 2012 and will double again by 2020.
  • Personal expectations are expanding rapidly. People commonly have multiple devices, requiring ubiquitous connections to provide ever-richer user experiences.
  • Formerly independent systems continue finding their way onto the data network. Systems such as building automation, audio-visual, low voltage intelligent lighting, and many others meld with the unpredictable demands from the Internet of Things.
  • IT is no longer exempt from the growing pressure to contribute to sustainability, LEED, Energy Star, or other green building programs.
  • There is always an imperative to maximize every dollar and drive down operations costs, now more than ever.
  • Traditional IT space is at a premium, and doing more with less is becoming a necessity in modern network designs.

Advantages of OLAN

While OLAN offers the right technical solution, the team needed to see how the market would price it as compared to a traditional network design. With that in mind, the design and construction team decided to ask bidders to price the new school with both a traditional copper-based network that the school district traditionally has used, versus an optical fiber-based network. The OLAN came in at a competitive price, validating the overall concept.

OLAN is the right choice for many other reasons, such as those listed in the following graphic.


The cost advantages for Santa Rita are compelling enough on their own, but the story gets better. Design is already underway on the new middle school in Liberty Hill ISD, and because the OLAN can extend the network 12 miles or more, the new middle school can be tied into Santa Rita’s optical network saving even more money and keeping the network simple.

In conclusion, Liberty Hill ISD is moving forward with OLAN because it delivers a high-performance future-proof network, consumes less power and space, uses less expensive cabling materials that don’t need to be replaced, and costs less to build and maintain. It is a Win/Win/Win/Win.

If you want to learn more about fiber-rich networks then I encourage you to read our whitepaper that is available here

Categories: school safety

Safer schools in Stephenville, Texas

October 22, 2019|Drew Deatherage

The Stephenville ISD has a lot going on these days and provides an excellent example of how the Architect, Huckabee, and Crux are partnering for our client’s success.  The District has undertaken a massive renovation to their high school, along with more modest work at the adjacent intermediate school.  Crux was pleased to be included as the technology and security design partner for both projects.  The high school reno is quite extensive, which means it is quite complex.  Together we have walked the District through a variety of technology and security options to finally arrive at the right answer for them.


stephenville high school


Crux helped the District resolve a problem with their existing access control system that was so painful that they had decided to replace the existing system across all campuses, which would cost many thousands of dollars and cause disruption to a critical security system.   We worked with the manufacturer and a good installation contractor to find a solution.  They did just that, allowing the District to keep their existing investment while meeting their operational needs.

During all this, the SISD Board wanted to learn more about metal detectors, which had become a hot topic among some influential voices in their community.  The Superintendent reached out to Huckabee, who, in turn, reached out to us.  We reacted on short notice to provide a briefing to the Board.  That created further conversation with the Board’s safety committee, which led to us contracting directly with the District to create an overall safety improvement plan, which we refer to as the Roadmap to Safer Schools.  Yet again, great teamwork between Huckabee and Crux are helping to create safer schools and better learning environments for students in Stephenville ISD.

Categories: school safety

Top 5 Blogs That Every Building Owner Should Be Following

August 30, 2019|Drew Deatherage

Owning a building usually entails plenty of upkeep and maintenance. From time to time you’ll need to repair or replace certain pieces of the building, but overall, it might last for decades. The problem is, technology is racing forward and continues to provide new upgrades and innovations to make buildings safer, more secure, and more efficient. You probably shouldn’t jump at every single new idea that you see, but it doesn’t hurt to stay up-to-date on what’s happening.

At CRUX, we’re at the forefront of building design with technology and security systems, and we want to share our expertise with as many building owners as possible. With that in mind, we wanted to bring you our 5 favorite blogs that we think every building owner should be following.

Sentry Communications and Security

This blog from Sentry has everything you need to know about keeping your building safe and secure. Whether it’s a business, a warehouse, a hotel, or any other building, you’ll find information on how to protect it. You’ll find tips on security during inclement weather, how to best protect your store, and even security monitoring for your business office. It’s a great resource to come back to when you have questions about how to keep your property secure.

Green Building Elements

Sustainable building materials and additions are trending right now, and they may be the future for many construction projects. Not only should you keep an eye on new and innovative tech, but you can also look for additions that you can bring to your current building. Green Building Elements’ blog has the latest info and news that you need about all types of sustainable and environmentally friendly building materials and additions. With tax credits and other incentives available, it might be worth keeping an eye on your options.

Building Design + Construction

BD+C Magazine operates this blog, and it’s a great resource for information on non-residential building and construction topics. You’ll find all the latest news on new technology and innovations in the construction industry, as well as resources for buildings of all types. From offices to college buildings there’s something here for nearly everyone.

Building Owners and Managers Association

The BOMA website has tons of great resources for anyone who owns or manages a property and wants to keep it in the best shape possible. You’ll find plenty of white papers and case studies about issues that matter to you, as well as workplace transformation research and economic impact studies. This is definitely one that every building owner should have bookmarked.


The CRUX blog is one of the best resources available for industry knowledge and news about the challenges and opportunities being created by new technology. Building owners will find plenty of great reads that keep them in the know about the latest innovations and what may be coming next. You’ll be treated to informative and relevant posts on what matters most to you, and you’ll always be up to date on industry developments.

Want to learn more about the intersection of new technology and building design? Then contact CRUX today.

Categories: blog, Consulting

Changes to Texas School Safety Requirements from the 86th Texas Legislative Session – Part 5 – Threat Assessment Teams

August 28, 2019|Drew Deatherage

In our previous post, we explored aspects of changes from the 86th Texas Legislative session related to socio-emotional health.  We discussed most of those in the last post.  Now let’s look at one additional aspect of it.

Senate Bill 11 (SB 11), the flagship bill, expands the use of threat assessment teams and requires the implementation of a safe and supportive schools program.  Both threat assessment teams and a safe and supportive schools program span across the emergency preparedness and mental health areas of school safety.  In fact, SB 11 addresses them in the same section of the bill that talks about emergency drills and terroristic threat notifications.  We include them in our review of mental health-related changes because of how they support mental health interventions and action plans.

The bill’s implementing language is quite specific.  It creates a new sub-section 37.115 to the Texas Education Code (TEC) that spells out various duties.  It charges –

  • The Texas Education Agency (TEA) to work with the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) to create rules for implementing a safe and supportive schools program.
  • The local board of trustees to create policies and procedures for implementing threat assessment and safe and supportive schools teams at each campus.
  • The superintendent to create the teams with the specified mix of skill sets and to provide for their oversight.
  • The teams with carrying out a range of duties related to threat assessment, student and employee guidance, and implementing the district’s all-hazards emergency operations plan.
  • The teams with reporting various data to the TEA

The TEA will need to clarify various aspects of this new section.  As is typical with new legislation, it leaves much to interpretation.

Threat assessment teams in education originated from research published in 2002 by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education.  Many school districts have already embraced some form of them.  The new law will likely standardize how they are implemented.  The TxSSC has launched a series of training sessions to be conducted across the State of Texas over the next several months.

Some school districts are already using techniques from the safe and supportive schools program.  Note that this is not the same thing as Safe and Sound Schools.  The former is a body of knowledge and techniques that is organized and offered by the U.S. Department of Education.  The latter is a private non-profit organization that grew out of the Sandy Hook tragedy.  Both are excellent resources.

Categories: Consulting, K-12, school safety