Category Archives: GPS

The agenda to RFID track your child, giving away free chips

In November 2015 Richmond Sausages, a subsidiary of Kerry Foods, spent £3 million on an ongoing campaign to distribute 200,000 Bluetooth tracking chips, free RFID chips, to be claimed via packs of sausages. The aim of the Sausage and Chip campaign is to make meals times less stressful if a children’s toy, teddy, has gone missing… and this would sell their sausages why?

I have to say as a parent myself a child losing a toy at meal time (whether or not sausages are present) has never been an issue and I can never recall any conversation with another parent where losing a toy has been an issue, especially at meal times.

The company supplying the Bluetooth GPS chip is a company called B-on who lists the Amigo watch, for tracking children, amongst its three products. The watch can set up geo-fencing ‘safe-zones’ incorporating a pedometer to track your child’s activity.

B-on also supplies other tracking devices for adults, health monitoring and fitness tracking. Having said that I cannot find the Amigo Watch for sale anywhere online. Apart from a few articles published last year by Wired and TechCrunch the Amigo Watch has virtually no online presence apart from the B-on website where there is no facility to buy.

Maybe the Amigo watch never got off the ground and the company now has to give away their product in another form because there is no market for it? Perhaps B-on made a few hundred thousand watches that haven’t sold, and to lure the unsuspecting public into using a tracking product… ‘needing’ a tracking product, they have ‘repackaged’ the watches into tracking chips to hang round a child’s loved toy.

It is a nudge, especially for a young child. The message? RFID tag the stuff we love.

You can imagine the conversation “…but why don’t you tag me Mummy? You love me as much as I love Teddy don’t you?”. Clever.

So why would Richmond, a sausage manufacturer, spend millions of pounds giving away free RFID tracking devices essentially aimed at children? Splashing out £3million is a hefty amount of profit margin from sausages sales to recoup, plus 200,000 RFID tracking chips. It just seems odd?

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RFID make kids safer apparently

Over the summer break some schools in the US have treated themselves to RFID location systems, one school district seems to have excelled itself in the level of intrusion of it’s students while other schools it seems are only tagging staff with RFID using the school’s existing wifi.

Here in the UK we had one college, West Cheshire College, that looked at using active RFID over it’s existing wifi to track students, staff and assets but found that using an ultra wideband RFID, tagging 5,500 students, saved them $400,000 – $600,000 – that’s a lot of money.  However wifi based RFID is being used in the US to track staff, not students yet, at very aptly named schools called Skyview and Grandview.  A third school to use the active RFID using wifi is Patrick Henry School in Virginia.  Patrick Henry was a brilliant orator and a major figure of the American Revolution – best known for his quote “Give me liberty or give me death“.

Liberty – the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s behaviour or political views.

give_me_liberty_1Is liberty compromised by RFID tagging and tracking humans, in this case children, with authority knowing your every move, behaviors and peer group association?   In the case of Belleville Public School District in New Jersey it seems liberty certainly may be compromised here.   As reported in the RFID Journal the school district is “implementing an active radio frequency identification [RFID] solution to locate students and faculty members within its schools, as well as students on its 21 buses… cameras with built-in analytic software, and a new phone system—as well as the posting of armed officers and a new director of security”.  Is is that dangerous being at school?  That sort of security is only afforded to inmates in prison but the technology in prisons is in place to stop people from getting out whereas at school it is there to stop people from getting in (with a massive added bonus of vast data harvesting).

Is it worth sacrificing privacy and liberty for this perceived improvement of safety as the above examples in the US cite?  And at what point does society put it’s foot down and say enough, we need our privacy.  It is doubtful the next generation will do that, being normalised to this high level of surveillance from school.

Patrick Henry Quote

New Jersey schools using person-tracking cameras, RFID and geo-tracking for students

Martin Okun,  Clarity Technologies Group

Martin J. Okun, Vice President of Security & Life Safety at Clarity Technologies Group

“As we see more and more violence in schools every day, we strive to find ways for our children to learn without fearing for their own safety,” Clarity Vice President Martin Okun.  Okun believes the security measures will a model for other districts concerned about security.

(If schools are that dangerous, more dangerous it seems than any other area of society, perhaps the simple solution is not to go to school and home educate.)

Person-tracking cameras, geo-tracking throughout building facilitates including transport, electronic access control, armed law enforcement and RFID tagging the occupants.  Sound like a prison or high security military base?  No.

This is a school district in New Jersey and this is Belleville School District’s reaction to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school, Newtown, Connecticut as reported in NorthJersey.com and Belleville-Nutley Patch.

Belleville School District seem to be the first school in the US, and possibly globally, to utilize cameras to tracking people in an educational environment.  The only hi-tech surveillance technology missing here is biometrics but actually the above surveillance just about covers the complete erosion of students privacy in this instance.

According to the Belleville-Nutley Parch, Clarity Technologies Group are supplying the RFID – and the person-tracking camera system to be used on the students is demonstrated in this Clarity Technologies Youtube clip:

…”more and more violence in schools every day” as Martin Okun states.  Maybe the root of this violence should be addressed rather than trying to use technology as a sticking plaster to cover over the more serious issue of criminal disturbance in schools, rather than the student population have to be subjected to such invasive surveillance .

Maybe there are a few of issues at play here.  Are schools that dangerous?  Or is another ‘education’ taking place?  Perhaps this is even a good opportunity to road test a new technology on a student population?

Corporate sponsoring of RFID GPS tracked children

A school district in Northern California is to start tracking children on and off schools buses via RFID and GPS technology.  The system is free to the district, taxpayers and parents with local businesses sponsoring the messages sent to parents phones to tell them their child is safe at school.

The company East Coast Diversified Corporation (ECDC), the parent group of StudentConnect, is enabling this RFID tracking technology to be financed using adverts sponsored by local businesses.

According to ECDC this tracking of children “creates a unique opportunity for businesses to demonstrate a policy of corporate responsibility toward student safety in communities they do business with“.  Advertisers can engage “the brand loyalty of parents out of appreciation for receiving safety notification regarding their children.”

This just sounds bizarre.  What shop would want to sponsor tracking a child?  Eroding that child’s privacy.  Are society’s ethics and morals to be discarded for “corporate responsibility” – trading safety messages about location tracking of our children in exchange to be advertised at?  Do we not trust the bus driver, schools and society to show a collective care for our youngest?

Yes, there are random acts of violence that defy logic or reason but when statistics are scrutinized both from the industry selling this technology and real risks that do exist, possible perceived scenarios – that involve compromising children rights more than they do protecting their safety – arise offering a financial solution to a situation that is not that urgent and disproportionate to the reported transport crisis.

There is money to be made in tracking children, that is for sure.

“Good morning.  Your child has arrived safely at school.  Oh, and by the way, your local hardware shop is offering 99% off sledge hammers to a crack nut with”

We should have more faith in society to care for our children collectively.  All members of society, community, family, corporate, faith based, all aspects should care for all.  We should not rely on a money driven system to take responsibility for our children, nor be led into believing that that is where responsibility lies.

Surely as a society, whatever country or community you live in, we should all take a part in looking out for each other and not be driven in this supposed care for our children from a financial incentive.

RFID and GPS “not a tracking device”

School busStudentConnect are providing RFID and GPS in school buses in the Gordon County School District, Georgia, USA to monitor students travel movements.

Apparently Andrej Jeremic, Director of Marketing and Business Development at East Coast Diversified the company that owns StudentConnect, stated that their system using RFID and GPS, is not a tracking device”  “…it is a notification system”. 

Yes Andrej, it is a notification system that notifies you of students tracks traveling on school buses (face palm!)

photo (1)

Even his own website states in the document ‘StudentConnect Market Research’ it states “Parents can track all of their children’s activities

Oddly enough, this ‘StudentConnect Market Research‘ document is research that another employee Kayode Aladesuyi, East Coast Diversified’s Chairman and Chief Officer, claims is an “independent research study” showing that 96% of parents would support a safety program that requires students to wear an auto ID badge.

There does not appear to be cited within the document any independent research company that carried out the survey.  The survey deployed 13,573 surveys with only 958 returned – that’s only 7% of people asked bothered to reply – perhaps the replies were from people who were positive about the technology?

Sadly, apart from children’s privacy and civil liberties being eroded, there seems an air of shabbiness along with a distinct hint of desperateness to sell us this type of tracking by remote ubiquitous technology that involves a lack of integrity and transparency.

RFID “ensures foolproof safety” for kids

RFID (CCTV and GPS tracking) ensures “foolproof safety” of children?  Really?
A claim made as Dubai launches it first phase of RFID tracking children on school buses with 3,200 buses transporting around 170,000 children “In the second phase, the entire fleet will be equipped with CCTV cameras and live communications system.” …with sound bite transmitting and GPS on the buses too – no expense spared for the kids in Dubai.

RFID vendors and government employees may claim that the technology is capable of a lot of things to sell it to us but that it “ensures foolproof safety” of children on a school bus is, in my humble opinion, going a step too far.

The one claim that can be made about RFID (and other technologies) use in this circumstance, is that using this technology to track children without doubt erodes those children’s civil liberties and privacy. 

“This system ensures foolproof safety of our children who are the future of our country and implementation of such an advanced programme reflects on the importance the government gives to the issue of children’s safety,”

While Al Qutami’s, the Minister for Education, intentions are admirable to keep children safe, surveilling them to this point is not a “foolproof” answer.

“Creepy technology” in US schools

An excellent article by AlterNet lists the ‘creepy technology’ used in American schools.  Maybe this is what the UK schools market has in store for our children.

SAN ANTONIO COPYING HOUSTON SCHOOL DISTRICT USING RFID –
San Antonio is taking its cue [tracking kids with RFID] from the Houston, TX, school district. It began using RFID chips to monitor students on 13 campuses in 2004. Houston’s Spring Independent School District gave 28,000 students RFID badges to record when they get on and off school buses. The police and school administrators provided the badges to ostensibly prevent truancy and child abductions.

GPS TRACKING FOR DELINQUENT KIDS –  In Anaheim (CA), about 75 seventh- and eighth-graders from Dale and South Junior High Schools are taking part in the pilot program. Students with four or more unexcused absences have “volunteered” to carry a handheld GPS device. Participation in the program will enable the students to avoid being prosecuted and a potential stay in juvenile hall.

Each school day, the delinquent students get an automated “wake-up” phone call reminding them that they need to get to school on time. In addition, five times a day they are required to enter a code that tracks their locations: as they leave for school, when they arrive at school, at lunchtime, when they leave school and at 8pm.

GPS LOCATOR IN BACKPACKS –

The Palos Heights School District in Illinois is attaching GPS locators to students’ backpacks in order to “locate kids in seconds” both in and out of school. The electronic reader registers date, time and location of kids. Administrators justify the tracking and surveillance of students outside of the classroom as for their safety.

“SCHOOLS SPY ON FAT KIDS” –
A very different monitoring effort is underway on Long Island, NY, in an effort to fight obesity.  Selected Bay Shore students designated overweight or obese are being equipped with a wristwatch-like devices that count heartbeats, detect motion and even track students’ sleeping habits. Similar programs are underway in schools in St. Louis, MO, and  South Orange, NJ.

RFID IN BASKETBALL JERSEYS –
In 2010, the Contra Costa County School District received a $50,000 grant to put RFID tags into basketball jerseys that students are supposed to wear while at school. The bulk of the grant went toward setting up sensors around the school to read the tags and computer systems to actually monitor where each student is.  The program tracks preschool children.

The above comes from the excellent article in AlterNet, link at the top of this post.

Of course on top of this biometrics are used in schools as well, raising privacy issues discussed n the American Schools and University Magazine and Anita Ramasastry writing on the Verdict website, Legal Analysis and Commentary from Justica.com, this article Biometrics in the School Lunch Line: Why Parents Should Be Concerned About the Privacy Implications of This Trend

Here in the UK biometric technology and privacy issues have recently been considered fully with the recent Protection of Freedoms Act passed in May 2012 detailing parental consent required when schools process a childs biometrics.  As of September 2013 schools in the UK using biometric systems need written parental consent for the child to participate in the system.  The school cannot discriminate against the child if they choose not to use biometrics and an alternative method must be found.

In a school of say 1500 pupils, the job of writing to both parents and obtaining written consent from one parent, for all students using a biometric system may prove cumbersome.

Perhaps the alternative GSP or RFID may be considered here in the UK.
Both RFID and GPS technologies are void in UK schools here at the moment.