For parents, the safety of their child is paramount. No wonder, they can't help but fret and worry when their children are out of their sight. Reports of children getting off at the wrong bus stop or getting lost in a crowded area don't help.
Northstar app wants to take these worries away by providing parents with a tracking system for their children.
App developers Bobbie H. Kalra and Shyam Ramamurthy felt that there was a lack of comprehensive child safety in India. Both had an expertise in Geographic Information System (GIS) which assists in mapping and tracking and they decided to put their skills to use, and develop a child safety app.
Northstar uses multiple technologies such as GPS (Global Positioning System), RFID ( Radio Frequency Identification) and in-vehicle video surveillance to ensure children's safety. Northstar has a desktop interface, as well as an app for admins (say, the principal or transport manager of the school) and a tracking app for parents.
When a child is enrolled in school, her school ID will come with RFID. When she gets on the bus her school attendance will be marked. This will allow schools to ditch the traditional attendance system and instead rely on a digital record of the child's presence.
"We wanted to make a simple app for parents. We use GPS to track the buses. Parents are notified in the morning when the bus reaches the school. They are also notified when the bus leaves the school after the day is over. They can see where the bus has reached," Ramamurthy said, speaking with HuffPost India.
"An alert is also sent to them when their child gets down. That is identified by the RFID scanner in the bus," he added.
Sometimes, children get down at the wrong stop. To avoid this, the Northstar app ensures that parents get notified if a child gets down at the wrong stop so that they can contact the bus driver or pick up the child. Currently, Northstar is serving over 200 schools and handling the tracking of over 3,000 buses.
"Saftey of the children at this institution is very dear to us. Most of the parents are very relieved after we rolled out the Northstar service," Dr. Dakshayini Kanna, Director and Principal, Harvest International School in Bengaluru told HuffPost India.
"From the system, we can track the drivers as well. If some driver is lethargic and lazy, that helps us in relieving him from the duty. We give extra incentives to drivers who perform well. This way we have a good staff and happy parents," she said.
The cost of getting the app installed is not much for a school. They can get themselves enrolled after paying a deposit of ₹10,000 plus the cost of technology. Parents have to pay ₹80 per month to be able to use the app.
Among the additional services provided by Northstar is video surveillance inside the bus. Just as an extra measure of precaution, Northstar places a camera on the bus to record the events and store it in memory which can be synced to the central database later.
Currently operating in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, and Pune, Northstar is trying to bring their child safety solution to more cities. Increasingly, child safety is becoming a cause for concern and technology is catching up to provide solutions. Recently, IIT-Kharagpur also developed a low cost RFID solution for tracking buses.