WisBusiness: OmniPresent Systems pushes for ’21st century neighborhood watch’

By Jennifer J. Thomas

MADISON — In the wake of recent school shootings in Wisconsin, Colorado and Pennsylvania, Greg Knowles, owner and founder of Madison-based security company OmniPresent Systems LLC, believes leaders on both local and national levels need to reevaluate and refine current security measures.

“Community officials need to be proactive about increasing safety in our schools and communities,” Knowles said. “Our products and services are designed to help communities get organized, to help them help themselves.”

Since the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year, there have been 25 school shootings at, or near schools nationwide. Seven of the shootings have been fatal, including the tragedy in Wisconsin. Most people would agree that when it comes to children being killed at school, even one is too many, which is why the recent school shootings have community members on high alert.

Many have raised concerns about school or community safety plans, security procedures, and emergency guidelines. Knowles believes updating and improving security standards is a primary solution for a safer community and especially for safer schools, considering the majority of schools in the United States do not have security cameras or metal detectors, including Weston High School.

The Weston High School shooting occurred on September 29, 2006 in Cazenovia, Wisconsin, Eric Hainstock, a 9th grade student, entered the school with a handgun and a shotgun, both owned by his parents. The 15-year-old boy shot his principal, John Klang, three times and has now been charged as an adult for murder.

This tragedy among other school shootings in the recent outburst evoke the same heartbreak and painful images like those seen during the late 1990s, most memorably at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999.

Since the Columbine massacre, some observers believe the country has not done much to better protect schools and communities. Recent incidents of school violence may provide enough incentive for community leaders and officials to update and increase their security standards and set a new threshold for security in the community.

“Staff and students must feel both physically and emotionally safe in all aspects of the school community,” Madison Metropolitan Chief of Staff, Mary Gulbrandsen said. “Parents must feel that their children will be safe when they go to school or are at a school function, so it goes without saying that security in schools is critical to the health of the schools.”

In addition to providing customers with top-notch security products and services around Wisconsin, Knowles has also been developing a technology to advance the alarm monitoring industry.

OmniPresent Community-Based Alarm Monitoring is designed to deliver near real-time notification of emergencies to a community-based response network via wireless communications. The system will be unlike any other on the market, not only by decreasing response time and costs but increasing reliability and trust within communities.

“Many communities suffer from similar tragedies,” Knowles said. “Collaborative action is what defines the strength of a community so we need to recognize the value of implementing a security system that encourages community involvement. We aim to enable a 21st Century neighborhood watch program utilizing real-time messaging, email, even audio and video streaming”

A product idea/prototype design of the innovative technology recently received second place and a $7,000 cash prize in the “Innovation Days” competition hosted by the UW-Madison College of Engineering. OmniPresent Systems LLC also participated in the G. Steven Burrill business plan competition hosted by the UW-Madison School of Business.

Thomas recently graduated from the UW-Madison, where she was a student in the Department of Life Sciences Communication.