Penn students, faculty and staff can now use their cell phones as personal security devices, thanks to Penn Guardian, a GPS tracking technology implemented Monday by the Division of Public Safety
Penn Guardian is an opt-in system in which users can register their cell phones online and create personalized profiles by adding a photo, local address and relevant medical conditions to their account. Any data stored becomes encrypted to protect user privacy.
When an account member calls Penn Police from his or her cell phone, a dispatcher uses Penn Guardian to determine the caller’s GPS location. In cases when a caller is being followed, DPS can use closed-circuit television cameras located throughout campus to monitor the caller’s situation.
“This [system] surpasses what you would get from simply dialing 911,” explained Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush.
Rush pointed to the case of a handicapped student trapped on the top floor of a burning building, in which a DPS dispatcher would immediately be aware of the student’s limited mobility.
“With Penn Guardian, the dispatcher can use your photo and the information on your profile to help your specific situation,” she said.
Originally called Rave Guardian, Penn Guardian was purchased from Rave Wireless, Inc. and underwent extensive privacy and other testing to ensure that “it is reliable and serves our purposes as a community,” Rush said.
To allay concerns of using Penn Guardian to undesirably monitor students at all times, Rush emphasized that “the only time [DPS] will ever see your profile is when you call Penn’s emergency number.”
Jonathan Kassa, executive director of Security on Campus, a nonprofit that works to improve college campus safety, lauded DPS’s adoption of Penn Guardian, adding, “unfortunately, not enough schools have adopted a system like this.”
Kassa supported the choice of Rave as Penn’s vendor, explaining that Rave “was invested in the importance of safety and security before Virginia Tech.”
Brown University is the only other Ivy League institution that uses the Rave technology.
Other schools to adopt the technology include the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Colorado State University and Howard University, among others.
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