Category Archives: Discussion

What is the cost of active RFID UWB tagging students at West Cheshire College?

You’d have though some simple questions on cost and funding may have been easy to answer, especially when you are investing in a state of the art, military standard, ultra wideband RFID tagging system for tracking children in real time?   It would seem not.

UWB RFID tracking students at West Cheshire College

West Cheshire College, according to the RFID Journal, started tracking students in 2010 with active RFID tags emitting a radio frequency signal, over 300 feet every second, to sensors around the college to pinpoint the students position to an accuracy within 1 meter – featuring some of most sophisticated RFID capabilities on the market. 

According to the college, the Chief Executive/Principal, a role held by Sara Mogel, was responsible for the New Buildings project at the College under which the RFID tracking system was installed.   So great a return on investment the RFID system proved to be, that the college’s Business Area Services Manager, Kevin Francis, went to Florida, USA, in April 2012 to give a presentation at an international RFID conference of how successful UWB RFID was at tracking kids.

So how much does this cost the British tax payer and how was the RFID and was funded?   To cut a very long exchange of  Freedom of Information Request (FOIR) and West Cheshire College’s replies short (which can be read here) apparently this is how a state of the art RFID student tracking system is procured at one of the UK’s largest Further Education colleges: 

Finance – West Cheshire college cannot be clear if the system was purchased, if it was purchased they cannot  find the cost.  The word “impossible” was used.

Implementation  – The college does not hold nor can provide any documents or records whatsoever on any discussions about the implementation of the RFID system.

Supplier – The college claim they have had no contact with the supplier,  Zebra Technologies, at all.   Zebra had on their website a videoOptimising the learning experience with a Zebra Location Solution” of the college, staff and students promoting the real time student tracking system.   This would seem to highlight that a company can film the college, staff and students without contact with the college at all.

Lack of Information – Members of staff that have left have been cited as a reason for the college not being able to provide information under its obligation to the Freedom of Information Act.  

Staff trip to Florida – West Cheshire College hold no documents or records about sending a member of staff to another continent to present the college’s use of UWB RFID to the RFID industry.  The college states that “In such cases there are no costs presented to the college and all matters are settled by the sponsors.”   Does this apply to this case/trip?  They have no documents on it either way, so maybe not?  Who knows?

Against RFID in schools

Student Consent and privacy -The college cannot be clear on how consent from students has been gained, whether any privacy impact assessments have been carried out.  They could not be clear on the specification of the RFID used to track the students.  These unanswered questions on consent and privacy, asked under the Freedom of Information Act, are now lodged  as an official complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Either West Cheshire College’s understanding of the Freedom of Information Act is extremely poor or the college’s answers under the Freedom of information Act raise some serious questions about what is going on at the college as a whole.  If West Cheshire College’s responses under the Freedom of Information Act are to be believed – which they must as the college has obligation under the law to respond truthfully – then practices at the college appear to highlight serious breaches of student consent, privacy, audit trails, accountability, transparency and security.  This would be quite astonishing.

The seriousness of child/student welfare should be of absolute paramount concern to any educational establishment acting in parentis locus and replies given under the Freedom of Information Act must be taken seriously – to this extent the Information Commissioner’s Office who oversees the Freedom of Information Act and Data Protection Act has been made fully aware of this situation.

We will let the penultimate slide of Kevin Francis’s presentation to the RFID Industry last April 2012, sum up:   “West Cheshire College – a first in the Education sector”

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RFID – “It’s going to make you sick.”

nav-logo-small-newAt the Texas House of Representatives House Bill 101 was heard yesterday, 19th March 2013.  The audio/video can be found here 2 hours 45 minute in.

From My San Antonio – Andrea Hernandez, one of the students that refused to carry the tracking RFID and was subsequently expelled from John Jay High School, ” told legislators Tuesday that she became ill because of radiation from the tags in other students’ IDs.
 “It’s like being in an X-ray machine for eight hours,” Andrea Hernandez said. “It’s going to make you sick.”” 

Incredibly the vendor of the active RFID 433MHz tags that the students wear, Michael Wade, stated that “said they [RFID tags] do not produce any radiation. – “None at all,” he said.”

…move along people, clearly nothing to see here then?

Michael Wade is uninformed.  Radio frequency is electromagnetic radiation.   The following is taken from this EU document “Is RFID safe in the workplace” and talks about the effects of RFID radiation.

Radio communications and microwave frequencies are known as radiofrequency, which fall within the kHz to GHz range.  In the case of RFID, the frequencies used are in the order of 145 kHz, 13.56 MHz, 800-900 MHz and 2.4 GHz.  There are two different kinds of electromagnetic radiation. Depending on their major effects, electromagnetic fields can be divided into ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation.  As radiofrequency photon energy up to 300 GHz is not high enough to break these bonds, these kinds of electromagnetic fields are known as Non-Ionizing fields. Fields with frequencies above this limit are known as Ionizing Electromagnetic Fields.  (433MHz tags used at John Jay)

Ionization is a process that breaks the atom-electron bond, thus creating molecules without sufficient electrons to achieve a neutral charge. This causes molecular changes that may produce biological damage, including changes in DNA.

Also this article from the World Health Organisation about mobile phone frequencies, 450 and 2700 MHz, operating near the 433MHz RFID tag frequency that John Jay High use.

Radio frequency radiation and health effects is too large a topic to be covered here in any depth but there is a mounting body of evidence to suggest that electromagnetic frequencies can have an effect on health – this is from radiation.  So statements from RFID vendors, that could be described as misleading and uninformed, need a little more research.  The health effects of active and passive RFID are known.   With good evidence to suggest radio frequencies can harm humans, here are just a handful of excellent websites dealing with this topic:

Contactless RFIDhttp://www.radiationresearch.org/
http://stopsmartmeters.org/
http://www.wifi-in-schools-australia.org/
http://wiredchild.org/

Unfortunately these frequencies are invisible and we have no knowledge of what we are accumatively exposed to.  Therefore eliminating one less potential health hazard from our lives by not wishing to carry an active RFID tag could considered a prudent action to take.

So though individuals may choose not to consent to using RFID due to personal, spiritual, privacy/civil liberties concerns, it may appear that there is no choice whether or not to participate in the electrosmog that comes from others use of, RFID, radio frequencies technologies.

Discussion from the Public Forum on Student Location RFID

USA, Texas – Over on the We Are Change Texas YouTube Channel is the public discussion from last Monday’s RFID Forum, run by Texans for Accountable Government with RFID privacy expert and activist Dr Katherine Albrecht speaking about the RFID Student Locator Pilot Programme run by the Northside Independent School District in two schools John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School.

The school’s superindent and board were invited to attend, as was the vendor.  The school board declined and the vendor unfortunately got sick at the last minute.  Dr Katherine Albrecht was interviewed on the Alex Jones Show and revealed the following – The Northside Independent School District’s attitude was that the RFID scheme was done, a done deal.  Dr Katherine Albrecht then attended a city council meeting later in the day, had her name on the list to speak at the meeting and got told, when at the meeting by the school board, that she would not be allowed to speak.  (A repeated behavior by the school board, previously shown at a meeting in September 2012, where parents had little or no right to comment on the RFID scheme.)

At these two US schools there are at least 4,200 students wearing RFID tags round their neck with a Radio Frequency pulsing every 45 seconds emitting up to 75 feet.  This frequency is at 433MHz, which is near/just about in the Amateur Radio Frequency and a frequency commonly used for remote keyless entry.  433Mhz is an unliscenced industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio band and a simple internet search for 433MHz antenna/receiver shows how available this technology is to buy.  (The UWB location RFID at a UK College recently using a Real Time Location System (RTLS) pulsed at a 1 second interval at 6.35-6.75 GHz on an ultra wideband Radio Frequency for up to 100 feet.)

Andrea Hernandez, a 15 year old John Jay High School student, refused to wear a RFID tag and also refused to wear a dummy tag and as a consequence was barred from her school.   A gutsy stand by Andrea and supporters, upholding up her personal principles, did not convince a court decision on the matter of her still attending John Jay High School without a RFID Locator Tag and sadly in Andrea’s instance, a refusal to participate in an RFID scheme resulted in discrimination against her schooling options.  However there are now three Bills introduced in Texas Legislature dealing with RFID tracking students “Where a schools district may allow voluntary use of RFID – Schools districts must provide an alternative identification” or even that “A school district may not require a student to use a RFID device or similar technology to identify the student, transmit information or track the location of the student

This recent public forum was opportunity to ask questions, voice concerns, discuss responsibilities, privacy and civil liberties of RFID location tracking, potential health issues of RFID and to keep the debate in an open, honest format.  Hopefully the prejudice that Andrea has experienced will not have to happen to another individual not wishing to participate in any location tracking device.

A shame that school representatives and the vendor could not attend.  I suspect their absence spoke louder than any discussion they may have brought to the forum.

Here is the first part of the debate.  The rest of the debate is on the We Are Change Texas YouTube Channel – thank you to them for sharing this.