This mass notification tool was one of just three products to win the Editors’ Choice designation out of the 45 Money-Saving Product winners. Learn more about this versatile notification system that integrates with the tools most buildings already have in place. Listen now >>
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Janelle Penny: Hi, everyone, this is Janelle Penny Editor-in-Chief of BUILDINGS magazine. And I’m here with Pat Scheckel, who is the Vice President of Product Management for Singlewire. Today, we’re talking about Singlewire’s Editor’s Choice Award winning product. Pat, thanks for joining me.
Pat Scheckel: Glad to be here.
Janelle: So, tell me about the product. How does it work?
Pat: InformaCast Fusion is a hybrid cloud mass notification platform. And what that means is that the brains of the system are in the cloud. That means that the upgrades and so forth are very easy to happen automatically.
There is a component that sits inside of the customer’s network, and that is what allows us to interact with all the on premises devices, so the ability to send text and audio and images to a wide variety of devices inside the customer’s network. Things like computer desktops, IP phones, digital signage, existing overhead paging systems, and integrate with other things such as physical control access systems and so forth.
Janelle: Great. So, what challenges does it solve?
Pat: Well, the use cases are vary based on the customer. But things that we see happening across all customers tend to be severe weather events, active shooter alerts, medical emergencies, and so forth. So, it’s anything that you need to notify people about in mass. The groups can be as small or as large as you would like. But typically when people reach out to us, it has to do with things like mass notification emergencies.
Severe weather is a very common one, and the weather seems to be coming more unpredictable. In just this past week, we saw tornadoes hit Nashville, and people want to have some degree of certainty that they’re going to have the ability to notify people very quickly on any different communication modality.
Sending broadcast to not just mobile phones, which are very important, but also to all the on-premises devices at once.
The use case of active shooter alerts is one that is very front and center for a lot of people as well. It’s a use case where speed is very important where seconds matter and sending a mass text alert that might reach your people in several minutes, which is kind of more of the industry standard just isn’t acceptable. You need to be able to trigger it very quickly. The triggering itself needs to be distributed.
So, this idea that only Campus Safety will have the ability to log into an application and send an alert is somewhat outdated, you need to be able to put that capability in the hands of the people that are going to be most affected by it.
If that means giving a panic button whether that’s a physical panic button, or a virtual panic button on a mobile app, on a desk phone, or on a computer keyboard that they can very easily trigger and they can notify, at a minimum, the people in the building or around them so they can take immediate action.
Janelle: Great. Now, of course, this is the Money-Saving Products competition. Can you elaborate a little bit on how this product can save people money?
Pat: Sure. What we’ve been able to do in developing this product over the years is create a system that uses what people already have. When you think about a mass notification system, you want to use those modalities that they already have communication channels, like their existing computer desktops, their existing IP phones.
What we do that’s different is that we’re not calling those phones, we’re broadcasting to their IP phones, and virtually everyone has IP phones these days on their desks, and we turn those phones into emergency notification speakers.
Instead of having to deploy little speakers all over or even big speakers all over, or beacons or some other device like that, we turn that speaker into a mass notification speaker and emergency notification speaker. Which is different than what most of the industry is doing.
That’s the money saving measure right there when you can get that, reach that intrusive audio coming out of all sorts of different devices very quickly. That’s a really big cost savings.
We can use what they already have. If they have an existing overhead paging system, we’re going to use that, too. If they have areas that aren’t covered by either IP phones or by existing overhead speakers, there are about a dozen manufacturers that use our protocol in the firmware of their IP speakers.
You can place them in strategic areas, maybe in a cafeteria, gymnasium, a hallway, and etc. in common areas. That speaker will be not only an audio device but it’ll have the ability to scroll text across it and have integrated LED flashes to make it a more effective communication device. It’s mostly using what people already have. But it’s also the ability to add in additional devices inexpensively.
Janelle: Makes sense. Now, we’ve touched on this a little bit already, but what are some of the other features that set it apart from other competitors in the field? What really makes InformaCast Fusion unique or interesting?
Pat: Sure. The biggest difference is that ability from a single platform to be able to send to not only mobile devices, but on-premises devices. Most systems out there are really good at one or the other.
You have traditional audio players that have come up and are really dealing with the things inside the four walls of buildings. Then you have the traditional mass notification players, which are cloud based platforms that are really only sending to some mobile phones in typically the only modality it’s really helpful. There is bulk SMS text messaging.
What we’re doing is we’re taking the best of both worlds and putting those together. The other thing that we’ve done is we’ve extended the platform into collaboration tools that people are using every day, notably Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx teams. What that means is that you can trigger from inside of those platforms, so you don’t have to leave the tool that you’re in that you're using every day.
But you can also receive it on those platforms. For example, with Microsoft Teams, there’s a client that runs on your desktop, there’s a client that runs an app that runs on your mobile phone. People use these tools all day every day to collaborate, but now you can use them as notification endpoints.
Perhaps more importantly, you can use them as an incident management platform app while you’re managing the situation.
After you send the mass notification out, and everyone receives it, your incident response team can then collaborate in real time, via audio, video, file sharing, so your safety plans, your checklists, your floor plans, all of those things are pre-staged in that virtual war room.
So, you can manage that incident on an ongoing basis until it’s completed. And when it’s done, then you have the ability to go back from a course postmortem perspective and analyze what was done when you have a recording of everything.
I think that’s where we’ve seen that evolution is bringing in other integrations and giving people the ability to use the tools that they already have, whether that’s for the alerting or for the incident management. And we don’t see especially in the collaboration tool space. We don’t see anybody else out there doing that today.
Janelle: Excellent. Well, Pat, thank you so much for joining me today. This has been really interesting.
Pat: Thank you.
Janelle: And thank you to you all for joining us today. We’ll see you next time.
Check out the other 2020 Editors’ Choice winners: