How Bus Guardian is helping school with COVID-19 contact tracing

Bill Westerman, Vice President of Product Management at CalAmp, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the Bus Guardian and how it is helping school with contact tracing during the new school year.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: School is back in session. And as COVID cases continue to climb amongst kids, a number of school districts across the US-- they're using contact tracing, and they're also using hygiene verification on school buses to navigate a safe return to the classroom. So we want to talk to the company that's behind the technology that's being used on this. And for that, we want to bring in Bill Westerman. He's CalAmp's Vice President of Product Management. We're also joined by Yahoo Finance's Reggie Wade.

Bill, it's great to have you. Safety is certainly a top priority for parents, for teachers, for school district employees. How is your product helping them, enabling them to keep these students safe?

BILL WESTERMAN: So our technology allows the school districts to understand which drivers and which students are riding a bus at any given point in time. So if there is an issue with COVID, they can identify who potentially may have been exposed to that student, be it a driver or a student.

And [INAUDIBLE] make sure that the protocols for inspection and for cleaning up the buses is done correctly and efficiently. We have a way to record that, as well. So we can identify students that may be affected or exposed to affected student, and make sure that drivers are doing their job to keep the buses clean and safe for everyone.

REGGIE WADE: Bill, with school starting this year and concerns over the Delta variant, were you seeing more districts contact you the closer we got to school opening day?

BILL WESTERMAN: Absolutely, and we've got a number of new schools are coming online, I think 13 or so in 14 states across the country. And it's a situation where they either added on capabilities to do contact tracing or, in some cases, deployed the telematics technology, the full stack, as we say, to support contact tracing and for monitoring inspections.

REGGIE WADE: Bill, how long does it take for this kind of technology to come to market, and what kind of pricing are school districts looking at if they want to employ this kind of software?

BILL WESTERMAN: We were able to build on some existing functionality. So we had an inspection capability in our application. We had a student ridership capability, as well. So we expanded those two offerings in order to support or to be able to better counteract the COVID situation. The technology is sold on a subscription basis, includes all the components, be it hardware, software, installation, training, support, and so forth.

It's on a per bus basis, and the pricing is roughly a little over $1 per vehicle per month. So it's very affordable, and customers usually sign a five year contract so it locks in the price. There's no price increases over that duration of the operation. And we're able to make sure that we provide all of the components necessary, so there's no gotchas or no unforeseen cost the school district has to deal with.

SEANA SMITH: Bill, privacy and security is key, especially because you're dealing with kids, and sometimes kids who are very, very young, so what are you doing with the data? How are you best protecting this in order to alleviate some of these concerns?

BILL WESTERMAN: So one of the components of our technology is to provide data to parents, and we're very careful about how that information is made available. The schools provide basically a login for the parent. The [INAUDIBLE] goes to a particular parent. The parent registers their children. The data that are provided to the parents is only for their child's bus, and it's a subset of the data available for the entire school bus route. So there's a number of protocols we take to ensure that the parents are protected, students are protected, and the employees of the school district are protected.

REGGIE WADE: Bill, we know that there's a number of school bus driver shortages around the nation. Have you seen that affecting your business?

BILL WESTERMAN: Absolutely, it's a significant issue, and there's a number of things that we're doing to try to help support school districts that have to deal with it. It's very typical, because of COVID, to have to manage substitute buses. In some cases, have to take one bus, and split up the students with several buses. So we are introducing the ability to do what we refer to as stop level bus substitution. We're able to quickly reshuffle the assignments to accommodate situations where drivers call in sick, where drivers are just not available, and help school districts react quickly to last minute changes, which is becoming an everyday situation.

SEANA SMITH: Bill Westerman, CalAmp's Vice President of Product Management, thanks so much for joining us today. And of course, our thanks to Reggie Wade for bringing this to us, as well.