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Can RFID Track Students in Schools?

Posted By RFID Journal, 08.27.2009
Could radio frequency identification be used in school hall passes to track students who are out of their classes?

—Name withheld

———
Yes, this could be accomplished, but the right type of RFID technology depends on what exactly you want to know about the students. There are also privacy issues to consider.

Passive RFID systems have a relatively short read range (under 25 to 30 feet), so they could be used to determine if a student left a specific room or the building. It's unlikely you would want to put a portal reader in the doorway of every classroom, so you could use a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) system at specific chokepoints to determine whether students passed that area or not, if you want to know where they are within the school.

Active systems use tags that have a power source and broadcast a signal. These can be approximately the size of a thick credit card, so they could work as a hall pass. Active systems can track objects and people over much longer distances, so you could use such a system, for instance, to determine the general location of a particular student in the building (if he or she is in the gymnasium, for instance, as opposed to the cafeteria). Active ultra-wideband (UWB) systems can pinpoint that student's location more precisely, so you would be able to determine, for example, if the child was outside room 201. The right system depends on what you need to accomplish.

Keep in mind that tracking the location of people could be considered an invasion of privacy. Students might object, for instance, to a principal being able to know they are in the bathroom. Before deploying the system, you should consult with teachers, students and parents to make sure the system will be accepted by all involved.

—Mark Roberti, Editor,
RFID Journal

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