Smart Sensors Detect Vaping, Threats in School Settings

Teen e-cigarette use is on the rise across the US, and many students report vaping on school premises. At the same time, students, teachers, and staff face myriad threats in school settings ranging from chemical exposure to active shooter situations. Smart IoT sensors that can detect substances and sounds can help minimize dangerous situations in educational environments.


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Image credit: IPVideo/HALO

Although e-cigarettes have been touted as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, vaping – using e-cigarettes – is still harmful to your health. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that the risks of vaping are substantial. Vaping exposes the puffer’s lungs to active chemicals in tobacco – nicotine – as well as flavorants, liquid additives, and other chemicals produced during the vaping process.

According to the NIH, vaping is now even more popular among teens than traditional cigarettes, with one in four high school seniors saying they have vaped in the previous month, and 20 percent say they have vaped marijuana in the past year. New laws have been set in place to curb teen vaping, and only those over 21 can legally buy any tobacco or vaping products.

However, health warnings and the law won’t dissuade some teens from using vaping devices. Schools are adopting measures to both prevent and treat the problem in their institutions, but vaping can be difficult to detect, and traditional human monitoring isn’t always successful.

But vaping is not the only danger students currently face in the school environment, and students of all ages face dangers in and around school buildings. Years ago, running with scissors, accidental eye jabs with pencil points, racing down staircases, and improperly using power tools in shop classes posed some of the greatest threats to student safety. 

Today, however, administrators must safeguard students and staff from threats to their health and even their lives. Administrators have to protect everyone in their buildings from possible shootings and violence, and even exposure to toxic chemical agents including everything from bleach fumes to carbon monoxide that can inadvertently cause harm to teachers and students inside. 

As the types of risks to student safety grow, so have the technologies that can help avoid and proactively prevent them. Internet of Things (IoT) solutions now can help educational institutions safeguard teachers, students, and staff. Integrating sensors with wireless networks, for instance, can help alert officials to the signs of dangerous situations before they happen, or the presence of substances in the school environment.

Advanced Threat Detection

One example is the HALO Smart Sensor from IPVideo Corporation. It is an all-in-one device that includes vape and THC detection, gunshot detection, security for privacy areas (with spoken key word and sound alerts), chemical detection, air quality monitoring, and a smart building manager. HALO also offers indoor air quality monitoring and BACnet integration to trigger facility environmental changes. It also provides cleaning chemical signature verification to assist with the fight against COVID-19 and the spread of airborne infectious disease.    

The HALO IoT Smart Sensor uses twelve different sensors that work together to detect several different substances and sounds. The device was specifically designed for use in schools to detect possible shootings, violence, and THC and vape fumes. The HALO can also detect invisible threats such as excess ammonia, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen in the atmosphere.

The device alerts security personnel and other designated individuals to possible threats. The HALO can differentiate between substances. For instance, it can distinguish between a person vaping with nicotine from an individual vaping with THC. In addition, the HALO can detect light, vibration, pressure, temperature, and sound abnormalities, and alert personnel to any unusual readings that may indicate a problem situation.

Smart Building Management 

Not limited to security and dangerous situation prevention and indication, the HALO sensors can also help protect the physical buildings and optimize building management. For instance, the sensors monitor the effectiveness of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and also indicate indoor air quality, including high humidity conditions that can produce unwanted mold and fungi.

Sensors can interface with a video management system (VMS) to allow direct correlation between the event time and the record time of a camera that is monitoring activities in and out of the room. HALO can also connect to the VMS as a video stream. The solution is also available as a cloud application, for institutions that want the ability to manage and update multiple HALOs and want more advanced trend analysis and reporting.


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