Heriot-Watt SafeZone App

Heriot-Watt University Case Study

Heriot Watt Main Campus

Heriot-Watt University has campuses in Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders, Orkney, Dubai and Malaysia. Each site used to operate almost independently in ensuring student and staff safety until Security Services were consolidated as part of a major restructuring program.

Heriot-Watt University has been named as International University of the Year by “The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018”. It was the first British university to open a campus in Dubai where it now has almost 5,000 students and staff; and its Malaysia campus has around 3,000 students.

Travel is also an increasingly important part of life for everyone at the Edinburgh-based university where undergraduates now have the option of spending their third year at any campus.

The introduction of SafeZone has been a significant tool to Heriot-Watt in the modernisation and restructuring of its Security Services. We are also committed to working in partnership with CriticalArc to further develop SafeZone/OmniGuard's functionality and communication capabilities.
LES ALLAN, Director of Safety, Security & Logistics Services
Safeguarding team interacts with students

Heriot-Watt’s challenge was to provide the same consistently high level of student and staff safety across all locations to meet current and future needs. Following a complete strategic review, the university decided to reorganise key aspects of its security operation as part of a service modernisation program. It spent a considerable time evaluating appropriate software to help support its new structure before deciding on SafeZone.

SafeZone is an essential component of Heriot-Watt’s new security service and is being fully integrated across all campuses with all security officers using SafeZone’s OmniGuard app on their smartphones. Any requests for assistance are handled by the local security responders, and a dedicated display in the new security control room at the Edinburgh campus monitors activations on and off campus.

CriticalArc’s technology lets my team communicate quickly with individuals and groups. It lets them pinpoint the location of anyone needing assistance, receive alerts and form a clear picture of real-time events. It’s really letting us do things we could only dream of before.
LES ALLAN, Director of Safety, Security & Logistics Services
Heriot-Watt uses SafeZone in their control room

The primary role of SafeZone is to support staff and students while they are on campus, travelling or during fieldwork but it also gives Heriot-Watt the flexibility to geofence additional areas as required. For example: the system has been configured to cover the 1.5 mile transit corridor between its Galashiels campus in the Scottish Borders and a new bus and rail transport hub.


The university’s intention is to make the use of SafeZone best practice for any students or staff travelling on university business. In addition, Heriot-Watt’s lone worker policy has been updated so anyone working on their own out of hours, for example in the library, laboratories or an office will only be authorised provided they use the SafeZone Check-In feature.

What I like best about working with CriticalArc is they’re very receptive to client needs. We push them very hard, particularly the design team to see if we can have certain functionality. We never get “No, sorry, you’ve got what you get and that’s it”. We always get a situation where they’re receptive to change and they’re very keen to look at development aspects and listen to new ideas.
LES ALLAN, Director of Safety, Security & Logistics Services
use of OmniGuard

In addition to implementing the new app and system across all campuses, Security Services are also working on a number of further SafeZone development projects.


The first of these, which has already been achieved has been to integrate SafeZone into the university’s existing security management system so that all alerts are electronically logged as incidents and automatically incorporated into routine security reports. The data can then be further evaluated to help identify opportunities for improvement.

I would indeed recommend SafeZone our peers within the university sector. I’m a very big champion of SafeZone because the product works so well for us in so many different ways. I know many of my colleagues in the university sector face challenges on how they manage the safety of the university’s assets, population, university’s reputation and because SafeZone is the world leader in the market, I’m very happy to advocate it to my peer groups.
LES ALLAN, Director of Safety, Security & Logistics Services
Heriot-Watt University at Malaysia

The next two developments are: first, to integrate OmniGuard smart phones with the campus CCTV network; and secondly, potential use of SafeZone’s shuttle tracking functions on the university’s fleet of buses which is used to transport students to and from the Dubai campus from across United Arab Emirates. Bus tracking will allow students to remain in safe areas until the bus is nearby, while keeping the local security service better informed of any vehicle breakdowns or unexpected delays.

The university is also exploring the potential to use SafeZone’s Check-In facility to record the attendance of Tier 4-sponsored students in support of its statutory obligations.

We are delighted at our incredible success at the Security and Fire Excellence Awards as winners of the Security Project of the Year category. This joint award for Heriot-Watt University and our friends at CritcalArc is a testimony to the power of working in partnership for mutual benefit and delivery of excellence with a world leading solution.
LES ALLAN, Director of Safety, Security & Logistics Services
Two security guards on Heriot-Watt University

Benefits & Outcomes

Security Services are using SafeZone as a critical tool to help Heriot-Watt University enhance safety and security consistently across all its five campuses. System benefits include:

  • More efficient use of existing security resources with standardised global processes
  • Providing security officers with greater situational awareness
  • Complete overview of emergency activations
  • Boosting the university’s appeal to new students (and their parents)