Friday, September 10, 2010

Playground Security Goes High-Tech with Sound Barriers, Motion Detectors, Infrared Video

While playgrounds provide good times and an ideal place for exercise, they're also magnets for senseless vandalism and after-hours loitering. Destruction or theft of playground equipment is an enduring problem for any community, costing property owners and municipalities millions every year.

Social decline factors aside, this is mainly due to the very public, easily accessible locations that recreational facilities occupy. Standard security measures such as fencing and lighting can only go so far in deterring those bent on doing damage. And because all it really takes are some tools and misguided motivation, playground crimes often prove relatively easy to perpetrate and difficult for police to solve, let alone deter.

In response, the technology and strategy behind playground security has really come a long way. An elaborate, though quite pricy new system illuminates, photographs and even bombards would-be vandals or after-hours loiterers with an ultrasonic "sound barrier."

MiracleTech Security, a division of Missouri-based Miracle Recreation Equipment Co., stands out as the pioneer playground security system. It's the first system designed exclusively for playgrounds, adapting common modern security technologies to the unique needs of a playground setting.

MiracleTech's patented technology that debuted at the 2009 National Recreation Park Association annual conference in Salt Lake City features an infrared digital video camera, low-voltage lighting and last but definitely not least, the sound barrier.

SonicScreen is tied to a motion detector and emits an "ultrasonic tone that's unpleasant to teenagers," explains the MiracleTech product brochure. It works like a dog training device that discourages excessive barking with a finely tuned alarm that only dogs can hear.

The company claims "SonicScreen does not affect children under 12 or pets" and "can also be configured to a lower frequency where loitering by older age groups is a problem." Its stock setting affects people age 13 to 25.

MiracleTech provides individual components or an integrated system that incorporates all three into one unit. ParkWatch video monitoring and SiteBrite integrated lighting fixtures round out the product package, which is flexible and easily tailored to specific facilities and equipment.

The lights, cameras and sound barrier devices mount on playground equipment posts and piping. MiracleTech can fit any new or existing playground structure.

The system can be mounted on a new or existing playground structure. The MiracleTech system can also be post mounted to as a retrofit to any recreation facility that has vandalism issues.

With regard to its impressive camera that can shoot at night, the company's website notes that "high video quality and a large storage capacity let ParkWatch play a critical role in suspect identification, helping deter child predation and other crimes."

Competitor playground security systems very likely will follow MiracleTech's innovative lead. It will be interesting to see how the technology evolves to fill the never-ceasing demand for safer, cleaner and well maintained schoolyards and parks.