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RFID Watches Over School Kids in Japan

A group of children in Yokohama City wears active tags to keep them safe on their way to and from school.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 16, 2005Children in Yokohama City, Japan, are the focus of a trial intended to test whether radio frequency identification might make Japanese school children safer on their way to school and back again.

The four-month trial began this month using AeroScout's T2 battery-powered RFID tags with call buttons. Nissan Motor Co., NTT Data Corp., Its Communications Inc., Tokyo Security Co. and Trendy Corp. are also participating in the trial. The system tracks the movement of children in a 2- by 2 1/2-kilometer (1.2- by 1.6-mile) area surrounding a city school.

Josh Slobin, AeroScout
Each child participating in the program wears a bracelet with a 2.4 GHz RFID tag complying with the 802.11 W-Fi standard. The tags can be set to send a signal, every second or every minute, to existing Cisco Wi-Fi access points used by the city for wireless Internet access. Those Wi-Fi access points function as RFID interrogators (readers).

Known as i-Safety, the system uses AeroScout software to determine the location of the child based on the tag’s signal strength received by Wi-Fi access points in the vicinity. That location information then goes to an NTT-run database, where a tag's unique Media Access Control (MAC) address is matched to that location.

The tags can transmit a signal to Wi-Fi access points as far as 1,000 feet away, and can be used to trace children within 10 meters (33 feet) of their actual location, at any point in the area where the trial is being held. In addition, the RFID tag comes with a call button a child can press to send an RF signal notifying the system he or she needs assistance.

AeroScout's T2 RFID tags are also being added to select Nissan vehicles regularly driven through the area on business, or for errands. The onboard RFID tags will send their MAC addresses to the same Wi-Fi access points as the cars drive through the trial area. NTT Data can then send a wireless alert message to a box installed under the passenger seat whenever the car drives near a child. When that happens, the box emits a recorded voice warning telling the driver a child is close by. There are two purposes for this function, Slobin says. First, participating drivers who pass through the area will know to avoid hitting the child. Second, designated safety guards monitoring the area by car can be notified by a voice message explaining that a child has pressed the call button, and identifying where that child is.

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