WTF?! Joke about American schools being prisons all you like, but thousands of students in China are practically facing the real thing. Ten schools in the Guizhan province and Guangxi Zhuang region have adopted the “intelligent uniforms,” which have trackers in both shoulders that monitor the students’ location 24/7.
If a student tries to leave the school during school hours, an alarm goes off. If a student leaves without their uniform an alarm also goes off, because naturally the schools have facial recognition as well. If a student doesn’t go to school, an alarm goes off and the parents are contacted. The uniform can also detect if a student falls asleep during class – which will also trigger an alarm.
Needless to say, the school’s administrators and parents have constant access to the location data, but don’t worry, Principal of Renhuai Lin Zongwu said to the Global Times that “we choose not to check the accurate location of students after school.” Zongwu also says that attendance rates have risen dramatically since the uniform’s introduction.
According to Yuan Bichay, product manager at the uniform’s manufacturer Guizhan Guangu Technology, each ‘smart jacket’ can be washed over 500 times and survive temperatures of up to 150C. They can also be used as a cashless payment system for purchases within school grounds, much like tap to pay. Parents and the school can see everything students buy, of course.
On Weibo, China’s version of Twitter/Facebook, students and the public alike have been questioning the ethics of such devices. According to the Epoch Times, one user was asking if this was a violation of human rights, another wondered how long it would be until all clothing for students and adults alike started tracking location.
Given that this is far from an isolated case of China deploying concerning technologies on its citizens, questions about the impact this could have on students, how many schools it will spread to, and what it might excuse in the future are important to consider.