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Tagged High School IDs Improve Student Flow, Enforce Rules

A Chicago-area institution implemented an RFID-based system allowing only authorized pupils to leave the campus during lunch, or to enter the student lounge.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mar 25, 2008A Chicago-area high school has begun issuing RFID-enabled identity cards. According to staff members, this has provided the school with an efficient tool for controlling and improving the flow of students who are allowed to leave campus during their lunch breaks.

The school's director of technology—who spoke to RFID Journal under a request for anonymity because administrators at that school seek to avoid publicity—says that when the facility's more than 3,000 students began classes this past fall, each was issued an RFID-enabled identity card. This year's card looks much like those issued in prior years—it includes a particular student's photograph and identification number, as well as a bar code with that ID number encoded to it. Embedded inside each card, however, is a passive, EPC Gen 2-compliant ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID inlay.

The high school's initial goal in adding RFID to the cards, the IT director explains, was to automate and improve the efficiency of a process for identifying which students are permitted to leave campus during lunch breaks. Only juniors and seniors may leave during lunch, which spans from 11 am to 1:15 pm.

In previous years, students would line up and hand their cards to a security guard, who would confirm that each pupil was a junior or senior, then compare each card's photo with the child presenting it. The purpose of this check was to ensure that no freshmen or sophomores left campus during lunchtime.

Now, as each student approaches the guard posted at the exit, a nearby RFID antenna picks up the unique number encoded to that child's ID's tag. (Students must carry the ID with them while in school.) The number encoded to the tag is unique, and is different than the student ID number printed in the card's bar code, but is associated with this ID number in a back-end database.

The software, made by RFID solution provider EPCSolutions, controls the RFID interrogators and presents the student's ID number and photo on a computer monitor at the guard station. The background color displayed on the monitor indicates whether a particular student is eligible to leave campus. (Green indicates that pupil may leave, while red means he or she may not.) Before allowing a student to depart, the guard compares the image on the screen with the presenting student and notes the background color.

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