In the speeches I give and in the articles I’ve written for Forbes and others, I’ve at times acknowledged visionary author and public speaker, John Naisbitt. His first book, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives, was published in 1982 and had quite an impact on thinkers around the world.

Even then, nearly four decades ago, this man had astute insights about where we are today. Naisbitt described the way that, in an ever more “high tech” world, we are still human beings and will always be – no matter how sophisticated may be the Artificial Intelligence and other creations we interact with. He predicted that, as a result of ever more technology in our lives, we’d feel an increasing need for “high touch” experience to balance all the tech … soon, in these times, to include taxis without human drivers behind the wheel.

These days, younger generations are increasingly replacing human interaction (like actually visiting a store!) by looking down at their mobile phones and ordering merchandise with mere taps of their fingertips. That trend creates an advantage for marketers who can find ways to offer “high touch” personal experienceas part of their selling models.

What Naisbitt did not foresee back in 1982, however – frankly, I doubt if anyone did – was the increase in gun violence in our schools and other public locations. Seventeen years later, the Columbine High School massacre in Columbine, Colorado famously cost the lives of 12 students and one teacher, along with others who were injured before the two teen killers committed suicide with their own guns.

“Columbine” has become a short-hand term for gun violence.  Ditto “Sandy Hook” based on the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  Also “Parkland” from the Florida school shootings of 2018.

Some proponents of safety in schools have seriously proposed equipping and training teachers with firearms in every classroom. What could possibly go wrong? 

But as the National Educational Association has pointed out, most law enforcement experts agree that school staff should notcarry guns.  For one thing, they’d never possess the tactical knowledge of handling weapons that actual law enforcement personnel receive in ongoing, regular training. We don’t even have to address the budget pressures on our under-funded educational system. Just the safety risks of having educators (not police!) carrying concealed weapons is daunting in itself.

So what does this have to do with technology? Well, as I have been noticing for a while, smart advances in technology are creating new solutions to human problems. Some innovations are matters of convenience, like Drizly. This e-commerce platform operates in over 100 markets across the U.S. and Canada.  Known as the “Amazon for liquor” it uses a high tech app to provide the high touch service of beverage alcohol delivery to your home or apartment door. You don’t even need a human conversation.

That’s handy and I’m all for it, but some high tech innovations can actually save lives. I’ll illustrate with an organization from my home state of Massachusetts. In Force Technology, LLC – based in Danvers, MA. – is a recent idea, formed in November 2017. Its high tech product, In Force911 has been teaming up with school and police officials to address our society’s gun violence problem.

Instead of being trained on firearms, teachers learn how to use a simple app. The program directly connects them to the police department in the event of a dire security emergency, like a gunman in one of the schools.  The In Force911 program is loaded onto the cell phones and computers of every staff member in the district. During any emergency that would warrant a heavy police response, a staff member will be able to alert police with the simple tap of the app.

When the app icon is touched, the staff member is instantly connected to police dispatch. In addition, an emergency alert is immediately sent to all patrol units in the district as well as to every computer in the affected building. District administrators are alerted, too.

In cases where digital cameras are in place (which is happening in more and more schools) responders can connect to live video feeds and observe the situation in real time. Educators are also taught when notto use the system – as in a medical emergency. A student having a seizure would not be an appropriate use. An armed intruder or students in a knife fight would be.

In Force Technology President and CEO, Brandon Flanagan, points out that when human lives are in danger, every second matters. Mr. Flanagan also points out that the app uses GPS or pre-programmed location settings to send dispatchers the exactlocation of the incident – eliminating potential lost time as an officer tries to hunt down a particular classroom.

Consider these chilling statistics:

* The average time to route a 911 call to actual first responders can range from two to four minutes.

* The average response time for law enforcement to arrive at an active school shooting is 12.5 minutes.

* During an active-shooter incident, one person is shot every 15 seconds. (If that doesn’t illustrate that every second counts, nothing will!)

* Forty percent of school shootings are still in progress afterlaw enforcement arrives.

Back to the idea that every second counts, consider that this new In Force911 software empowers teachers, faculty and staff with the ability to summon law enforcement in 12 seconds or less, compared to the two minutes or more taken by calling 911 and routing to first responders.

As Arlington, MA., Police Chief Fred Ryan has observed about the new technology, “God forbid we do have an incident of school violence. It will shave minutes off of response time.” A growing number of schools are also using a program known as the ALICE Training Institute. (“ALICE” stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Execute.)  

Chief Ryan will integrate In Force911 software with the ALICE training in his community. “We want to be in the business of prevention, not reaction, to school violence,” Ryan has said. He calls the new system a “virtual burglar alarm.”

I’m glad to see this smart technology spread. The Commonwealth of Virginia, for example, has announced that In Force 911 will be installed in schools across that state by 2020.

My particular career has been based in the “high touch” field of beverage alcohol … the product form that has helped human beings relax for literally thousands of years. I’ll never be a technology expert – that’s for sure!

But it strikes me that using technology to quickly save human lives in our schools (maybe someday in our theaters and stadiums, too) might truly be the ultimate “high touch” development of a “high tech” world.

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