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Trailing Students with RFID School Name Tags

The summer holidays are behind you, and the children are back to school. With a new set of shoes, uniforms, and sports kit, what you need now is a pack of school name tags.

Labels that are good value for money must be easy to apply to clothes and accessories, should be waterproof, and easy to wash.

But the school authorities may have different ideas. They may insist your child wear an ID on a lanyard around their neck. This is not uncommon. But this time round, the ID will have something extra – a chip that stores a number that ties it to your child’s name.

What is so special about such school name tags?

If you look carefully, on the top of the school building, there are readers installed that read the chips.

This is how high technology works.

The readers transmit radio frequency waves, which an antenna on the Radio Frequency ID tag receives when it is close to them. The antenna activates the chip on the card and establishes a wireless communication channel. The reader reads the chip and locates the child in question.

As of now, such readers are located only in schools making it impossible to track children beyond the school premises.

The aim to have RFID school name tags, school authorities say, is to enhance children safety and attendance. Besides, such tags have other benefits like using them for transactions in library and cafeteria.

Good, all looks well – but almost, because some privacy experts differ.

“The need for safety should not overtake privacy; there must be a balance between the two,” says an open government counsel. “We see this high technology and surveillance raising substantial threats to privacy.”

Even civil liberty groups and digital privacy watchdogs are averse to this “Big Brother is watching you” atmosphere.

For many schools this system apart from addressing safety issues has the added advantage of recovering average daily attendance funding.

Some states fund school districts based on student attendance- also known as Average Daily Attendance (ADA).

Budgets are tied to average daily attendance, and naturally schools do not want to lose cash. If children are absent in the classrooms during the roll call, the school loses precious money.

Luckily, RFID school name tags address this issue. If students are anywhere in the school premises, they are technically present. All that teachers need to do is tap into their handy RFID data base.

But not everyone is happy.

As someone put it, “RFID is fine for products and cattle but not for kids in school”.

Drawbacks are not less. Security can be compromised by getting these tags cloned in no time, by making them unreadable by wrapping them in a foil, or by leaving them in the school campus.

A school principal, however, sees the pluses. “It gives children more responsibility once they know the school is keeping up with them. In the long run it will teach them to be accountable”.

This may be true, but in some situations privacy concerns count. No one would like if their birthday present is wrapped with RFID gift ribbon.