Bobbie H. Kalra, the CEO of Bengaluru based company Magnasoft, was surprised when he was approached by Abu Dhabi’s police department to install its transit safety platform 'Northstar' across schools and their school buses across Abu Dhabi. After the death of a child due to excessive heat and exhaustion in a school bus during the commute from house to school, the authorities were concerned about the safety of schoolchildren. They wanted a system that could help them track the movement of children during transit in school buses. They approached Kalra and installed Northstar which has gone live in Abu Dhabi.
Northstar is an integrated platform that protects children while they commute to and from school. A web application, it is designed specifically for schools and empowers the school authorities to manage their transport related information, monitor their fleet and children in real time and take immediate action in case of any incidents. Northstar also has an app for parents to locate and view their child’s journey in real time.
The Northstar safety platform integrates GPS and non-GPS locationing, video surveillance and RFID technologies to facilitate school bus and child monitoring, school bus video surveillance, student attendance management, driver behaviour analysis among others. The company provides the school management with a web application and dashboard to manage all their transport information, so that they can keep a watchful eye on their children.
The parents on the other hand have to download the Northstar Parent App, available on both the iOS and Android. The system gives them real time information on the movement of their child’s school bus and its location. In case of a delay, the parent immediately gets a real time alert.
"We are running a dedicated command centre in Bengaluru that ensures constant monitoring of bus fleets in case of exigencies across our implementations at schools in the country. Over 500 schools and 4, 00,000 parents across India are already using our platform. The potential for such a solution in India is immense as currently there are around 45,000 private schools in the country and around 30 million children use school buses to commute. The cloud based system can even store data which can be reproduced on demand at a later stage.
In one instance, a parent complained about harassment of her child during the school bus journey. "Later on, when we retrieved the data and saw the footage of the commute we found that the child was crying due to stomach ache and not due to any harassment," explained Kalra.
The system also has an in built analytics system to rate the safety record of the driver with regard to his driving and the speed with which he drives. This helps in having a sophisticated driver merit system to measure and incentivise good drivers and also detect rash drivers. Besides, the Northstar platform also has an attendance management system that can also track each child's presence and location within the school such as near the swimming pool or the playground.
"We have been successful in capturing millions of events across dozens of parameters to monitor, analyse and report in real-time, children and bus status, route adherence, transportation safety, driver behaviour and aggregate reports. We aim to create a safe ecosystem for children," said Shyam Ramamurthy, the chief technology officer of Magnasoft, who has been instrumental in developing this platform.
Harvest International School in Bengaluru was one of the first schools to adopt the Northstar platform. It was followed by hundreds of schools across the country such as G.D. Goenka International School in Delhi, Indus International School in Pune, Sahibzada Ajit Singhji School in Jalandhar and the Orchid International Kurla, Mumbai and others.