New device can detect when students are vaping in schools

Schools across the country are searching for ways to stop students from using electronic cigarettes. Recently a Montgomery County high school started locking some restroom doors, and last year a Virginia high school took the doors off completely.

Students are usually out of sight when they're in the bathroom, but one product promises to detect students who are vaping without jeopardizing their privacy.

Soter Technologies, a company out of New York, created the Fly Sense Vaping Detector. The concept is similar to a smoke alarm, only this device is looking for vapor from electronic cigarettes.

"How it works is the device itself looks at overall air quality in a given location," said Soter Technologies CEO Derek Peterson.

Peterson explains that when a student is vaping or smoking cigarettes or marijuana, the device sends email and text alerts to school staff to help them catch students in the act. He says the accuracy rate is 80-85 percent.

The sensor can also help stop bullying and fighting even though it doesn't record or transmit audio or video.

"It does that by looking at sound anomalies," Peterson said,

He says combatting bullying was the initial intent of the product, but as teen vaping has continued to surge, that's now become the main draw for schools. Peterson says when his company starting selling two years ago, he had no idea what the demand would become.

"Fast forward to 2019, we're moving 500-600 devices a month right now. And that's ongoing. We're in 35 states and 10 countries right now," Peterson said.

We checked with school districts in the D.C. region, and for now, none are using Fly Sense. A few have been in talks with the company though, and Loudoun County Schools confirm they are looking at costs of installing vape detectors. One Fly Sense device costs nearly $1,000 plus maintenance fees. Dummy devices are also available since the bigger picture for schools is deterrence.

"They'll buy ten real and ten fake devices and sprinkle them around," Peterson said. "And some schools move the devices so students don't know what are real and what are fake."