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Chinese schools use 'smart' uniforms to track students

The chip-powered clothing can alert officials if a student tries to leave school without permission

Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

Nearly a dozen schools in southern China have adopted "smart" uniforms to track students' whereabouts, Agence France-Presse reported.

The move to use chip-powered clothing is reportedly aimed as a way to reduce truancy and boost school attendance, according to state media.

The technology has the ability to monitor students as they enter the building and when they leave. That information is sent automatically to school officials and teachers.

"When students enter the school, the smart uniforms help take a photo or video of them," Ran Ruxiang, an elementary school principal in Guizhou province, told the AFP.

Ran said his school started using smart uniforms last November and now more than half of the students are wearing them. The school has about 1,400 students enrolled.

Some schools in nearby Guangxi have also adopted the technology, according to the Global Times.

How does it work?

Guizhou Guanyu Technology Company developed the chips that are placed inside the shoulders of the school uniforms.

The smart chips are paired with facial recognition devices that are installed on the school's doors. The technology can even detect when a student has swapped uniforms with another child.

An alarm is activated when a student attempts to leave school without permission.

Yuan Bichang, the technology company's project manager, told the Global Times that the chips can survive about 500 washes and water temperatures up to about 300 degrees.

What about privacy?

But there are privacy concerns because students can be tracked outside of school property and during non-school hours.

"We choose not to check the accurate location of students after school, but when the student is missing and skipping classes, the uniforms help locate them," Lin Zongwu, a school principal at another school in Guizhou province, told the Global Times.

Ran said that his school mainly also uses the technology as a tool to send messages and homework to students through an app connected to the uniform chips.

It's not clear whether or not truancy rates have been reduced. Ran told the AFP that attendance has increased, "but not much."

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