A school in Switzerland will soon begin a pilot project to digitally track its students with magnetic bracelets to monitor them on school grounds.

“At the Letten after-school care center in Birmensdorf, children will wear a magnetic wristband with a Bluetooth system that will allow the childcare staff to check where the child is; staff will receive an alert if a child leaves the after-school care center or school ‘without permission’ during care hours,” Remix News reports.

Birmensdorf Primary School wrote to parents in a letter that “high-quality care” of the children is a key concern for the school, according to Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ).

Per NZZ (translated):

But what happens next is quite something. The school wants to try out a “digital solution”: in future, the children in the Letten day-care center will wear a magnetic bracelet with a Bluetooth system that the care staff can use to find out where the child is in the day-care center or on the school grounds. In addition, the staff will be “actively informed” if a child “unauthorizedly” leaves the day-care center or school during care time. This was made public by the newspaper “Le Temps”.

What’s interesting is that the technology and equipment for the tracking system is supplied by the head of the Letten daycare center, Joel Giger. Last year he founded a start-up called Companion and initiated the project in Birmensdorf. The company’s logo is also shown on the school’s communication, which the NZZ has seen.

The school board does not see this as a problematic connection, as its president Bettina Köhler told the NZZ. “Those responsible for the day-care structures at Birmensdorf School can gain new insights through the pilot project and at the same time offer the company the opportunity to test the product as part of the pilot project together with specialists on site.”

Although it’s up to the parents if they want their children participating in the pilot project, they must actively deregister their children.

Remix News reports:

The test at the Birmensdorf school will begin on June 10 with the third and fourth grades and will last until the summer vacations, the school revealed. The project will be extended to all classes between the summer and fall vacations. The test will then be evaluated and a decision made on the definitive introduction of the system.

It is up to the parents to decide whether they want their child to take part in the project or not. However, they must actively opt their children out. Tracking systems for children are not a new invention. GPS devices, which parents can use to locate their children at any time, can be ordered online at the click of a mouse. The number of such portable devices, also known as wearables, has increased significantly worldwide in recent years.

The cantonal data protection authority, however, is critical of the project. According to its spokesperson Hans Peter Waltisberg, data processing is proportionate if there is a “reasonable relationship” between the purpose pursued and the data processing. However, “a permanent localization of pupils does not seem necessary for the care of children.”

“It should be examined whether a Bluetooth wristband is the appropriate means of localization. For example, the fact that a wristband can also be removed must be taken into account,” he added.

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