• 04.18.12

No More Hooky: Brazilian City Embeds Uniforms With Tracking Tags

Life for the students in Vitoria da Conquista just got a lot harder (or a lot more filled with detention). Is this good education or the nanny state for students?

In what is either the slippery slope into a survellience society, or an easy way to prevent kids from playing hooky, the Brazilian city of Vitoria da Conquista is embedding student uniforms with trackable radio tags.


The radio frequency tags, similar to those used to monitor retail merchandise, pets, and cattle, use a receiver-transmitter system that sends a radio signal that is reflected back by the tag. Although the exact location is not detected, it can confirm proximity within about 20 to 30 feet of the receiver. A text message notifies parents that their child has either arrived or is not in school. The city’s 43,000 students, ages 4 to 14, will be tracked in the program by 2013.

“We noticed that many parents would bring their children to school but would not see if they actually entered the building because they always left in a hurry to get to work on time,” the city’s education secretary, Coriolano Moraes, told the AP. “They would always be surprised when told of the number times their children skipped class.

Brazil’s not the only place contemplating the technology to keep track of people. The military has been studying its feasibility for soldiers, (PDF) and the Department of Homeland Security has pushed to install tags in special driver’s licenses so identification information can be read from as far away as 30 feet.

For now, Vitoria da Conquista says it is one of the only cities to try such a plan. It may not be the last. “I believe we may be setting a trend because we have received many requests from all over Brazil for information on how our system works,” said Moraes.

About the author

Michael is a science journalist and co-founder of Publet: a platform to build digital publications that work on every device with analytics that drive the bottom line. He writes for FastCompany, The Economist, Foreign Policy and others on science, economics, and the environment.