RealNetworks recently released its SAFR platform—highly accurate, machine learning facial recognition designed to detect and match millions of faces in real time. While there are a variety of applications for this powerful technology, RealNetworks envisioned school safety as a primary use case for its world-class algorithm; RealNetworks has made SAFR for K-12 available free of charge to K-12 schools in the United States and Canada. To help you get started here are some best practice guidelines corroborated by schools that are using SAFR.

Start Outside and Move In

Typically the best place to begin with your SAFR school deployment is with cameras directed outward from school entry points, such as the primary entrance. Many schools already have cameras installed in these locations, and SAFR is designed to work with existing camera systems. At many schools, parents and visitors often wait in line to be recognized and buzzed in by a school administrator. The overhead of manually recognizing and buzzing people in at school entrances can be overwhelming for the administrator at times, and frustrating to those waiting. Over time this can lead to a break down in campus security as doors might be left unlocked or people are buzzed through automatically without looking at who is requesting access. SAFR can dramatically speed up the entry process, making it faster and easier for everyone. SAFR provides opt-in registration for those who wish to be granted more convenient access by school administrators. After being authorized by the school those registered can be recognized by SAFR, instantly notifying the front office about who is at the front entrance and streamlining access.

To refine the entry process even more, the system can be automated by integrating SAFR with gate and door buzzers or door entry systems to automatically open gates and doors for authorized people. This provides convenience, a record of who has entered the school campus, and enables staff to focus on administrative duties rather than door buzzers. The SAFR solution can provide additional security safeguards, because it can not only automatically admit those authorized to enter (parents and approved guests) but also, be instantly updated to revoke authorization when situations change, for example, when parental custody rights change or when students are suspended or expelled.

Once entry systems have been enabled with SAFR you can include existing camera systems inside the school. SAFR can recognize those on a watchlist, such as expelled students, and alert security personnel.

Establish SAFR facial recognition practices

The SAFR system is flexible and customizable, designed to support the needs of your school. With SAFR, schools can decide who to recognize. For example, should the system be limited to including only adults (essentially school staff, faculty, parents and visitors) or should it also include students? If it’s set up so that only adults are in the system, you can use SAFR’s age threshold controls to prevent students from registering themselves. If you include students in the system, is it simply the students who are restricted from entering the school, such as expelled or suspended students, or will it contain all the students? Finally, will participants, adults or students be allowed to opt in or out of the system, or is inclusion in the system mandatory for certain groups? Careful consideration of the needs and wishes of all stakeholders, transparency regarding what data is collected and stored and how it is being used, as well as ample opportunities for stakeholder feedback will greatly contribute to the success of your installation. RealNetworks has published a set of best practices for implementation here

Privacy and Data Security

Schools should determine how best to manage their own privacy and data security to align with their current practices. SAFR for K-12 is designed such that all facial data and images are encrypted and remain exclusively within the school’s domain as part of, or complementary to an existing school’s ID system. The school alone has access to the image and facial data.

Technical Considerations

Successful integration of the SAFR system in a school setting requires a number of other important considerations. Schools will need to work with their IT department or support team to ensure that the SAFR system will fit into their information architecture. Should the systems run on Mac, Windows or Linux systems? Is there sufficient expertise in the school’s current IT group or support team to handle the challenge, or will outside resources need to be brought in?

SAFR can support an IT environment where a school runs SAFR on a combination of Macs, Windows, and/or Linux machines. When deployed locally, SAFR requires a dedicated computer to run the SAFR facial recognition platform (we recommend a Mac Pro or iMac Pro). For schools with more than 5-10 cameras, we recommend using Windows or Linux computers to monitor your IP cameras.

SAFR includes a software application to administer, manage, and monitor the system as well as a mobile application to convert tablets into registration kiosks or facial recognition devices. Typically, we see schools install the software on the Administrators machine at the front desk. The mobile application is then used to create a registration kiosk with an iPad device. SAFR, today, works with Macintosh computers, iPads, iPhones, and iPad touch. Support for Windows, Linux, and Android will be available in the Fall of 2018.

Another major consideration is the equipment that will be used to deploy the system. SAFR is designed to work with IP -based camera systems. Nevertheless, schools need to determine whether there are enough cameras in the school and if they are in the right places. Camera resolution, lighting and placement are important factors to achieve accurate facial recognition. The school should allow time for testing to ensure that their camera resolution is sufficient as well as the proper camera angles and lighting conditions to ensure accurate detection by the software. In a few circumstances, a school may need to upgrade a few cameras to achieve great results with SAFR.

It’s Been Done Before

Whatever you decide regarding the installation of the SAFR system in your school, you should be aware your school won’t be the first. The SAFR system has been successfully installed and tested in several locations including the University Child Development School in Seattle. If approached thoughtfully and with the right team on board, your school could successfully become a SAFR school in virtually no time at all. We are also here to help. Reach out and let us know how we can support you.

SAFR is a useful resource as you continue to strive to better school safety. We look forward to partnering with your school or district.