In the words of Ivo Allen, president of Hunter Technologies, his company’s latest innovation took “three years to bake.”
He is talking about “911inform,” software that helps monitor schools and other public buildings, and aids both law enforcement and those in the line of fire, keeping everyone safe.
The Wall Township-based company is 20 years old. It specializes in system integration for Avaya phone systems, supplying phone networks and systems for commercial enterprises, municipalities, government agencies and police departments.
“All my employees are from New Jersey,” Allen told NJTechWeekly.com. “I do have some techs that work from home in Pennsylvania and all over New Jersey, but we’re all New Jerseyans.”
The company’s first customers were police departments, and it currently has 137 police departments and 911 centers in New Jersey as customers, Allen said. Hunter Technologies has also expanded to installing communications systems in school districts.
“I was noticing that the communication and the tools that the police had, and what the school districts were using for communication and emergencies was basically lacking,” he said. “There was no, I’ll use the term ‘cross-pollination of information.’” The software being used could only communicate between school personnel, so it wouldn’t aid law enforcement in the event of an emergency, he added.
The germination of the 911inform idea came three years ago, when Allen and his wife were lying in bed, watching a “Dateline”episode about school shootings. The broadcast featured teachers who had died from nonthreatening gunshot wounds because the police couldn’t enter the building.
“There was no information for them. Working with police and school districts, I knew the pain points that they both had, so I started developing 911inform. It was three years in development, and we just officially released it in January, so it’s been ‘baking’ for three years, testing for over a year with various police departments and school districts.”
During an early 2019 school trade show, Allen had representatives from about 20 school districts approach him with avid interest. “They said, ‘I want it now.’” So far, there have been about 30 installations, with more school districts signing on. “People see what it can do; they recognize the benefit of it,” he said.
“911inform bridges the gap between the police, the school district and the parents,” Allen said. Schools do test lockdowns, but in a real emergency, police departments can find that perhaps five other agencies are responding, but aren’t familiar with the schools (the layouts, procedures) or with what’s going on.
“Interagency information is very hard to coordinate. Most towns draw from different systems. 911inform provides a uniform platform that works with the school personnel, works with the police and gives the police the tools that they need — building grid search, clearing a building, access to cameras. And with our system, a police officer can be in his patrol car, access the cameras inside the school, lock or unlock the doors, page, communicate, monitor. All the stuff the police kind of had on their wish list that was never there, we’ve developed for them.”
There are already cases of schools and police departments benefitting from the 911inform technology, Allen added. “A school district in Middlesex County was able to call 911 and communicate with the police when a catastrophic failure disabled all phone and internet service in the school. Also, a nurse in a Passaic County middle school dialed 911 from her phone. This activated the 911inform system and directed the police officer in the school to the emergency before the call was connected to the 911 dispatcher. The officer arrived on site in the nurses’ office two and a half minutes before the call came over the radio.”
Allen is always working on improving the system. “RFID tracking is being added, so you can see students, faculty, staff and visitors in real time on the map,” he said.
The South Plainfield Police Department endorsed the 911inform system, saying “The Hall Boss feature is being added so police can see and manage assets from other departments inside the school, including real-time team positioning, student facial recognition, ID verification and access to live camera feeds from within the school.”
Allen also noted that, with 911inform, the police can instantly communicate with all parents via text, especially regarding if and where their children are being moved and where the parents should go to pick them up. Also, the police can lock down schools with the push of a button.
“Within 30 seconds, my software does what the normal school district takes 30 minutes to do now, and with a lot of coordination. Information can be provided instantaneously.” Police departments are not charged for the software, but schools are, as they have a budget and are getting a federal reimbursement for school safety, he said.
Hunter Technologies is “absolutely” hiring, Allen noted. “I’m always looking for good engineers — network engineers, phone engineers, programmers — who are locally based.”