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Schools in China are tracking students with GPS-enabled “smart” uniforms

Schools in China are tracking students with GPS-enabled “smart” uniforms
[Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images]

The dystopian future that Pink Floyd envisioned in “Another Brick in the Wall” is creeping a little closer to reality in China. Eleven schools in the southwestern province of Guizhou have new “smart uniforms” embedded with computer chips that ensure the student is in school, paying attention, and behaving properly, according to a report from state-run newspaper The Global Times.

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The uniforms, which were developed by local tech firm Guizhou Guanyu Technology, come equipped with GPS devices to ensure the student isn’t playing hooky, as well as tech that will set off alarms if a student walks out of the building or falls asleep in class.

The chips also allow parents to monitor purchases their child makes at the school and set spending limits via a mobile app, according to the company’s official website. Jacket swapping won’t work, either, as facial-recognition scanners on school doors match the chips with the correct student. It would be hard to damage the two chips, which are inserted into the shoulders of the uniforms, because they are built to withstand up to 500 washes and 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 Celsius), per Global Times. (The company’s website was not reachable at the time of publication.)


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In keeping with the Big Brother motif, the system can locate students even during non-school hours. However, the principal at one of the schools using the smart uniforms told The Telegraph that they “choose not to check that data.” The Beijing News reported Tuesday that the company pinky-swears it is not monitoring students’ movements around the clock, but people remain skeptical about the company’s respect for privacy rights. “It is horrifying,” one Weibo user wrote. “I imagine the parents agreed to this after being brainwashed.”

The tracking uniforms are the latest push in China’s ongoing efforts to digitize education and create “smart campuses,” according to The Telegraph. Last year, a professor at the Communication University of China announced he was using facial recognition software to prevent students from skipping his class.

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