IoT and the Smart Connected School Bus

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Solutions provider Presidio is changing the age-old image of the creaky yellow school bus by giving it a fresh new IoT makeover.

One of its marque transportation transformations this fall was in the fleet of buses owned by the Huntsville, TX, Independent School District (ISD). Located 70 miles outside of Houston, the large district has 6,300 students and spans a whopping 644 square miles. This means two things: Its school buses pound out a lot of miles every day, and kids spend a lot of time on the bus.

“We really wanted to provide wireless access to our students. Some of them are on the bus for an extended amount of time, some up to 90 minutes,” says Dr. Howell Wright, Superintendent of Education, Huntsville ISD.

The school district turned to New York City-based Presidio with the wish list for its fleet. “Presidio and Huntsville ISD have had a fairly long partnership together,” says Bob Daughrity, Director of Education Solutions at Presidio. To help with budgeting and integration costs, the school district wanted to work with only one solutions provider for its smart bus retrofit. 

Presidio systematically began the process of upgrading the bus fleet by adding a bevy of solutions, including: on-board Wi-Fi for students, real-time engine telematics, real-time view capabilities for cameras and ridership check on/check off. Presidio tapped into its working portfolio of IoT technology for smart transportation, which includes Intel® IoT gateways, Intel® vPro™ technology, and Intel® IoT security solutions.

Education on the Move

Presidio started by making the buses into virtual classrooms in motion, adding Wi-Fi for the students who use digital Chromebooks. “The solution really enhanced the ride and enabled the students to access their textbooks and their work while they’re on the school bus,” says Wright. The Wi-Fi is also helpful for students to keep up-to-date with classwork during field trips and athletic events when the students don’t get back until late at night, he adds.

Beyond bus-based Wi-Fi, Huntsville wanted to tackle the more complex challenges of student safety and location monitoring by bus stop. The bus drivers are given a tablet as they go to their bus each morning. Presidio developed an application that allows bus drivers to keep a tally of students getting on and off at each location, so they know what students are on the bus at any given time.

The tablet provides drivers with turn-by-turn directions, traffic and road conditions, and communications with dispatch. In an emergency, drivers can use the tablet to contact first responders. Using the tablet’s GPS capabilities, police and ambulance services can quickly identify the bus location.  

The district also wanted to the capability to see what was happening on each bus. Presidio started the project by using the camera technology that was already installed on the district’s buses and added live video functionality. “If there is ever an issue on the bus, we can see live video at that time,” says Wright.

Presidio safe bus IoT solutions

Photo credit: Presidio

Telematics for Better Performance

Presidio also integrated telematics into the bus fleet, which is beneficial to the district’s mechanics. The system has the ability to see more than 2,000 readings from the computer on board the engine of each bus. The driver has the ability to get real-time feedback on speed and overall vehicle safety. By giving accurate information to the driver and mechanics in charge of the fleet, the school district hopes to benefit from lower maintenance costs.

So far, Presidio has earned an A+ in bus IoT. "Presidio has been able to transform the way we do transportation. It has allowed us to give our kids opportunities that other students don’t have, to allow our kids to make improvements not just through transportation, but also in the classroom. And that’s really what this is all about: improving the opportunity for our students," says Tim Hookes, Director of Transportation at Huntsville ISD.

Learn more about how IoT is hopping on the bus. Watch the video.