Keeping tabs with high-tech
Japanese schools use ID system to bolster students’
By Kenji Hall: The Associated Press; Oct. 9,
TOKYO - Every time a fourth-grader passes
through Rikkyo Elementary School's front gate, a small, gray plastic tag tucked
inside his backpack beams a message to a computer in a nearby office.
The students are oblivious, but the computer logs the time they enter and leave
and a security guard watching the screen takes note. Moments later, their
parents receive confirmation by e-mail.
In Japan, high-tech tagging
has made the jump from grocery stores to the schoolyard.
officials hope the Radio Frequency identification technology will serve as an
early-warning system for children who go missing.
"This won't prevent
crimes against children," said Tsukasa Tanaka, principal at Rikkyo, a private
boys school in Tokyo. "But without the tags, we might not know that a student
hadn't made it to school until we take roll. That's too late."
high-profile child murders have shocked low-crime Japan, prompting Rikkyo to
look into several types of electronic monitoring.
The school, one of
two in the country testing RFID tags, those them because other technologies such
as satellite-based tracking would have betrayed too much information about
With the tags - about the size of small key
chains - officials and par-ents will know if a student is late for school in the
morning. Parents also will know if a child takes longer than usual to get
Like many schoolchildren in Tokyo, Rikkyo's students can spend
as many as two hours getting to school by themselves on busy trains and subways.
The school bans mobilephones, but parents wanted more assurances after the 2001
school slayings and recent kidnapping threats against one of Rikkyo's students,
"I think the tags are a good idea because my two sons
almost never leave school together," said Kimiko Shino, a 38-year-old housewife
who has one son in second grade and one in third.
Shino said she has
no worries that the tags, on which are stored only a child's name and class,
could violate her family’s privacy.
"Now I’ll know what time to expect
them home," she said of her sons, whose commute to Rikkyo takes 30
Developed by Japanese semiconductor and computer maker
Fujitsu Ltd., the tags use a technology that is beginning to gain widespread
Retailers and delivery companies use RFID to keep
tabs on merchandise. Motorists with prepaid RFID cards zip through traffic toll
gates without stopping. Delta Air Lines plans to adopt an RFID baggage-handling
system at every U.S. airport it serves.
The Food and Drug Administrat-
tion has urged pharmaceutical companies to tag drugs to cut down on
counterfeiting. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has said it expects goods from 100
suppliers to incorporate the tags by January.
And in Japan, sushi
restaurants rely on RFID to ensure that raw fish left out too long on revolving
conveyor belts is replenished.
Although critics say proposals to embed
RFID chips in driver's licenses - the state of Virginia is looking at the idea
-would violate individual privacy, the technology continues to get even more
personal. Mexico's attorney general said this year that he and his staff were
getting microchip implants for access to secure areas of their