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RFID Takes a Ride on School Busses

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Sep 03, 2010 @ 12:59 PM

Schools Out, Do You Know Where Your Child Is?

4-year-old left on school bus”.  Headlines like this one from the September 3, 2010 issue of the Joliet, IL Herald-News seem to be repeated several times every year.  Imagine the panic experienced by a four year old who thought they were going home, but find themselves in the bus parking lot hours later.  Imagine the feeling a parent has when their child does not get off the bus at their designated stop.  Not to mention the resulting calls for the resignation of otherwise responsible school bus drivers and law suits filed against schools.

School BusTo help avoid frightening and potentially costly mistakes like these, several school systems have deployed or are considering RFID-enabled solutions to help monitor children when they are traveling to and from school on busses.  Through the combination of RFID tags placed on students' backpacks and equipping school busses with RFID readers, schools can monitor student movement and automate in-transit attendance.  By combining the data form RFID readers with data from GPS tracking devices that are already installed on most busses, school administrators can look up the ID number of a specific student, find out what bus they boarded, the location of that bus, and whether they exited the bus or not.  Some systems even send text alerts to parents, letting them know when their child gets on and off a bus and provide an online view of the busses while en route.

Privacy Concerns

The adoption of RFID by the education markets comes with privacy concerns.  Some parents object to electronically tracking their children’s whereabouts, suggesting that it might compromise their privacy.  Despite the fact that passive RFID tags carry little information about the person carrying them and are unable to transmit signals over long distances, these concerns are well founded and must be addressed by solution providers and schools alike.

With the right privacy safeguards in place, in emergency situations or as part of a standard transportation attendance process, RFID-enabled solutions can help schools do more efficiently and effectively what they’re already doing manually.  And, in the case of tracking children on school busses, puts parents' nerves at ease.

For examples of schools implementing RFID solutions to track students on busses, check out the following articles:

Technology Tracks Schoolbus Kids

Indian Schools All Set to Implement RFID and GPS Based Tracking System

Your Child Is Now Safe with RFID Equipped School Buses

Would you be open to your child’s school implementing an RFID-enabled system to monitor and report your child’s whereabouts?   While mistakes happen, I can’t think of one parent, teacher, or school administrator who would want to be caught up in the headlines.

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It is a nice idea to track kids, but what about the challenges in implementing this system like 
- kids having multiple backpacks and all are not equipped with RFID tags 
- forgetting backpacks in school bus while leaving the bus 

posted @ Monday, September 06, 2010 7:06 AM by surendra

I am the CEO of Wade-Garcia&Associates. We now have two school districts in Texas monitoring over 25,000 students on the buses and in the school facilities. The parents are very much in favor of the system. All students and staff wear our ID badge and we are able to locate students on the bus as well as in the school facilities real time.

posted @ Saturday, September 11, 2010 8:44 AM by Michael Wade

Sounds like a solution but is RFID the answer? My partner drives schoolbus and there is a system installed that requires her to walk to the back of the bus and press a button mounted near the rear door. On the way she would be checking for children left on the bus sleeping or hidden as well as lost articles. I agree, RFID is great technology but are there alternatives such as this system and proper policies and training so children aren't left on buses at the end of the day?

posted @ Wednesday, March 09, 2011 7:06 AM by David

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