Uniform computer chips track student locations

Summary:School uniforms just got interesting.

This week, over 20,000 grade-school students in Brazil have been wearing a rather special kind of school uniform -- embedded with location-tracking chips.

In the the northeastern city of Vitoria da Conquista, students from some of the city's 213 public schools have all begun wearing t-shirts with the special radio frequency chips embedded in the material. These 'smart uniforms' tell a parent when their child has entered school by sending a message to their mobile phone.

However, if the student has not arrived and entered class 20 minutes after school starts, then the parent is alerted with the following message: "Your child has still not arrived at school".

According to the city's education secretary, Coriolano Moraes, the aim of these uniforms is to tackle the issues of 'bunking' class and non-attendance. He added that by 2013, all of the city's 43,000 public school students will be using these 'smart uniforms'. The students will all be between 4 and 14 years old.

In a telephone interview, Moraes said:

"We noticed that many parents would bring their children to school but would not see if they actually entered the building because they always left in a hurry to get to work on time. They would always be surprised when told of the number times their children skipped class."

If a student skips class three times, the parents will be asked to explain the absence -- and a 'lack of knowledge' now can no longer be used as an excuse. If there is no explanation, then authorities may become involved.

The city government of Vitoria da Conquista invested $670,000 in order to design, test and manufactured the t-shirts. The chips are placed underneath the school's coat-of-arms -- the traditional design found on many uniforms in the West -- or on one of the sleeves.

If placed on a sleeve, the chip can be found below a phrase that says:

"Education does not transform the world. Education changes people and people transform the world."

According to the education secretary, the uniform has been designed so it can be washed and ironed without damaging the 'smart' component. Furthermore, although without detail, the chips apparently have a security system "that makes tampering virtually impossible".

Image credit: James Emery

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About

Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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