For many school bus operations, multitasking to maintain fleet efficiency and safety is the rule, rather than the exception.
Fortunately, an all-in-one, automated software solution exists to minimize the overwhelming number of fleet management duties required by transportation departments. The solution: ARMOR™ Software Suite. A software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform by REI®, ARMOR helps school districts greatly reduce the time, stress, and expenses related to fleet operations and surveillance. Among its capabilities: live surveillance views, automated software updates and upgrades, driver performance reports, stop-arm reporting, and vehicle tracking.
“ARMOR can be a cloud-based platform for users to easily do so much,” states Taylor Moore, ARMOR specialist and sales consultant for REI. “It’s essentially a fleet management software that easily maintains automated video retrieval, health diagnostics of both your surveillance systems and your engine diagnostics, active or passive GPS, and the ability to view live. ARMOR is an efficiency-driven software designed to be flexible for all our users, simplifying their experience, and making their operations significantly more efficient.”
ARMOR in Action – Santa Fe ISD
Santa Fe Independent School District (ISD) near Houston, Texas utilizes ARMOR and REI surveillance cameras for its 48-bus operation. The district’s decision to integrate ARMOR with fleet surveillance cameras was an easy one and has proven itself to be an invaluable addition for safety and efficiency.
Mark McKinney, transportation director of Santa Fe ISD, recalls, “I spoke with REI at a trade show and was shown a video from a bus that was on fire, and the system kept recording for roughly 10 minutes after the fire broke out. I said, ‘Let’s look at this.’ Based on our experience in the past, we go out and pull a hard drive and it can be anyone’s guess as to whether it’s going to be working or not.”
He continues, “My first experience after installing an REI system was, we had a kid who smeared peanut butter and jelly on the seat and floor. We pulled up the video footage and, not only could we see him eating and smearing it on the seat, but the image was also clear enough I could tell it was grape jelly.”
Automated Video Downloads
In addition to the multiple surveillance views, Santa Fe ISD utilizes ARMOR for automated speeding notifications, and driver and vehicle data. McKinney says the district’s drivers appreciate the ease in pulling files.
“The speed and convenience of information delivery is very beneficial,” he notes. “During any event, the driver can hit a panic button and ARMOR automatically downloads five minutes of video before and after the button push. We just play the video footage once we know an incident has occurred.”
Easy Video Sharing
Further enhancing the timeliness and collaboration of the district’s event review process is ARMOR’s share feature. The function is an easy way to distribute password-protected event videos to others in just seconds.
“The good thing about it is file sharing, being able to send that email link to drivers. I don’t have to teach them how to use ARMOR. All they have to do is click on the link, hit the play button and skip around,” McKinney says. “The convenience of being able to email that video using a link saves me a tremendous amount of time – and the mechanics don’t have to pull hard drives. To be able to send it, and the fact that it’s secure is a big plus,” he continues.
Ease of Use
“The people who access ARMOR are our office personnel,” McKinney states. “We don’t have to do a lot of training. It’s pretty simple. Most of the time they look over my shoulder and I show them how to do it and they’re off and running,” McKinney continues.
ARMOR’s ease of use extends to those outside his district office as well. McKinney adds, “Even our district police department finds it easy. They don’t call me and ask, ‘how do you make this thing work?’ So, that’s a big plus for me.”
Moore elaborates, “That’s a true testament to how easy it is to use the software. REI does have a support team that dedicates a portion of their schedule to onboarding new users. The training enables them to be up and running quickly and efficiently.”
Santa Fe ISD’s operational efficiencies have significantly increased thanks to ARMOR. In the past, McKinney would wait for a mechanic to retrieve a hard drive, and then spend time combing through footage.
“Now, my day is as long as it needs to be,” he says. “If a driver tells me that they hit the panic button, I can go and find the video – usually already downloaded – very easily. Even if they don’t know exactly when the incident occurred, I can use the system’s playback function to quickly find the footage I need, and then pull the full video. It’s very efficient because it doesn’t require us to pull a hard drive and I don’t have to wait until that DVR is live on the lot to set up a download.”
“It really saves us so much time, and in many ways makes our buses even safer,” adds McKinney. “Our office staff, our drivers, and even our kids know it’s always recording. They know we’ll have video of every incident.”
Diagnostic and Stop-Arm Capabilities
“One of the beautiful aspects of ARMOR is it shows a screen telling me what’s working and what’s not. It’ll tell me if there’s a hard drive that’s not operational,” explains McKinney. “We also have a stop-arm camera enforcement program in our district. REI camera systems are currently installed in 15 of our buses that are part of that Verra Mobility Stop-Arm Camera Enforcement Program, and those images are extremely clear for license plate reading to curb stop-arm violations. Over two years, we have seen monthly violations cut by 56 percent.”
Working in the Cloud
When ARMOR is installed on-premises at districts like Santa Fe ISD, server allocation and access points are required for operation. The district has its own Wi-Fi network dedicated to ARMOR and event videos begin downloading as soon as buses enter the Wi-Fi-enabled lot. The district has yet to upgrade ARMOR to a live-feed or cloud-based platform, because officials are pleased with how the system is currently operating.
If ARMOR is installed in the cloud, the data collected exists on the web, eliminating the need for additional IT resources. REI manages customers’ ARMOR servers at its headquarters, allowing for more efficient access to data, cost and operational savings, and automated software updates. Districts then receive notifications about the latest releases.
“Managers really love all of the notification options within ARMOR – those related to health diagnostics as well as those involving detected events,” Moore explains.
“For example, if a driver is suspected of continuous speeding, an administrator can configure an automatic notification when a speeding event occurs. This allows administration to mentor, coach, and train their drivers and do so much faster than having to search their videos to find the event.”
Users may select from ARMOR’s many notification options to meet the demands of their districts and fleets.
ARMOR’s open Application Programming Interface (API) allows districts and contractors to adjust the system’s application to suit their unique needs and provides opportunities for third-party vendor integration.
“We believe that its open API will really help ARMOR continue to grow and serve our customers,” Moore concludes. “As we integrate with other vendors and systems, those beneficial partnerships will improve our own capabilities and increase the options we can provide to our customers.”