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OCAD University Deploys Guardly Campus Safety App

OCAD University, an art and design college in Toronto, has begun offering a free smartphone safety escort tool to its campus community that allows users to communicate with public safety personnel in the event of an emergency or unsafe situation. The mobile application, Guardly Safe Campus, grew out of a two-year joint project between the university and Guardly, which develops a web-based incident management system.

The company itself grew out of OCAD's Mobile Experience Innovation Centre incubator program, where a six-month residency led to the development of the technology's core infrastructure and Guardly's first iPhone app. Student and staff volunteers have been testing the mobile app since February 2012. It works on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows 7 phones and is available as a free and premium subscription service to non-OCAD users as well.

The app works with Guardly Command, a Web-based application that notifies dispatch personnel to monitor, manage, and respond to emergencies within campus boundaries, defined by a "geofence." The program provides real-time caller location, identification, and profile information, such as medical conditions and other information specified by the caller in a pre-programmed profile. During an emergency, dispatchers can speak with the caller by phone or engage in a conversation by secure instant messaging. For privacy purposes, location tracking is enabled only after the caller triggers an alert.

"Guardly puts our services directly into students' pockets, on a platform they are especially comfortable with," explained Vicki Brown, director of campus services & security. "Our growth created a need for an innovative approach to campus safety that could transcend physical infrastructure," said Brown. "OCAD University is a leader in the mobile sphere, so it makes us very proud to be the first campus in Canada to offer this new service to our community."

The app is also available off campus. Outside the OCAD U geofence, the application can be used to notify emergency personnel via 9-1-1 service as well as the caller's personal security network.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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