The Midlothian Independent School District’s new “SMART Tag” technology — in the works for a couple of years — has been fully operational since Oct. 30, the MISD board of trustees learned at its recent monthly meeting.
Developed by Secured Mobility, LLC, a privately held technology company located in Georgetown, the SMART tag — the acronym stands for Secured Mobility Authorized Ridership Technology — ensures that only authorized passengers can board a bus.
“I just want to say how proud I am of our transportation department,” assistant superintendent Jim Norris said. “They do the impossible every day, moving our kids around on the roads we’re on sometimes.”
The system also tracks school lunches, and what books a student checks out of the school library.
According to Secured Mobility’s website, the full-featured operation utilizes Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and cloud-connected tablet computers in each school bus to provide accurate, real-time information to increase safety and security of students and faculty.
Deanna Cannon, the MISD’s transportation coordinator, told the board that the system has been fully implemented and running over the last six weeks.
“We love it,” Cannon said of the new system. “This is our pride. We’ve had school districts calling us about it, and we share with them all the information we can at any time.”
Every student carries a badge with an RFID chip and they swipe it when they board and depart their bus. The system alerts the bus driver when something is amiss.
“Our students are all contracted to the bus per their addresses that they’re registered with on campus,” Cannon said. “So the routes are set by picking them up at those addresses. With SMART Tag, that identifies the student badging on and off at the wrong location — which is a very big asset for us, letting us know we’re letting the student off at the wrong address.”
The badge serves as a student’s identification card, and the system is also integrated with food service and school libraries.
The system allows the district to monitor daily ridership. Cannon said as of Dec. 16, there were 4,175 students that were routed to buses, with a little over 3,000 riding that day.
Cannon said the system also is used during extracurricular activities — i.e., an out-of-town bus trip. Administrators can pull up a passenger manifest if there were ever an incident that required parental notification. Also, the location of each bus is tracked in real time and can be pulled up on a map, which would aid first responders or transportation department mechanics should the need ever arise.
Drivers can also use the system to inspect their buses before and after a route, and report any mechanical issues to the transportation department.
Parents may register for access to a parent portal, and have the ability to follow their children’s whereabouts, Cannon said. The system will send a text to parents alerting them of the bus’s arrival ahead of time.
“I have a great staff, I have to say,” Cannon said. “Midlothian is very blessed with the drivers that we have. We have a very good family over there and they’re sweet people too. They love their kids.”