Back to school

At this time of year the return to school is heralded by the purchase of new school uniform for thousands of children. Trutex, a clothing supplier in the UK, has recently announced that it is considering including GPS tracking devices in future ranges of its uniform products following an on-line survey of parents.

Mobile phone GPS tracking services targeted at parents for monitoring the whereabouts of their children are inexpensive and becoming more widely available in the UK. Advertisements often exploit parental concerns, heightened by high profile incidents of child abduction and violence from street gangs. ARCH, Action on Rights for CHildren, has raised key privacy issues with the UK government including the fact that there is no statutory regulation covering these devices beyond the Data Protection Act 1998.

Ethical issues abound, can a child or young person really give consent freely to be monitored in such a situation? Inevitably, cases of misuse are starting to emerge. Last month a man in the U.S was accused of tracking a child by implanting a GPS device in a picture frame the boy owned.

Returning to the subject of “smart” school uniform, human nature may rule the idea impractical in the end. In my experience by week 2 of term many children have lost the most expensive items of clothing you bought them or are just walking around in someone else’s.

One Response to “Back to school”

  1. Exchanging uniforms would be a fun game! :-) A while back, The Economist published this article:
    http://www.economist.com/science/tq/displayStory.cfm?story_id=8312152
    “SCOTT MCNEALY of Sun Microsystems, a computer-maker, once said he could imagine a day when doctors would “slap a baby’s bottom” and then insert a locator chip into the newborn child’s neck. “That’s not Big Brother; that’s dad,” he said. Although they are not at the chip-insertion stage, some families in America and elsewhere have already embraced Mr McNealy’s child-tracking call. They have started buying child-friendly mobile phones outfitted with GPS (Global Positioning System) technology.”

    Tracking children is the most used application in the research area of ‘object tracking’. As a nice example take Maximilian’s work at DoCoMo
    http://mobblog.cs.ucl.ac.uk/2007/09/07/roundup-of-papers-in-mobiquitous/