Planet desk | 05 January 2019 | 5:18 pm
Schools in Guizhou province and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region are using “smart uniforms” embedded with GPS trackers to make sure students do not skip class, and to assure parents of their children’s attendance and safety, reports China Daily.
Nine schools in Guizhou and two in Guangxi have introduced the tracking uniforms. Guangxi is a poorer province in China and faces higher rates of truancy.
Chip developers Guizhou Guanyu Technology said in a statement that the time and date are recorded after students who are wearing the high-tech uniforms enter the school. The students’ movements at that point are also capture on video, which parents can view on a connected mobile app.
Facial-recognition technology is designed to prevent children from improperly swapping uniforms.
For the willing truants, skipping classes triggers an alarm that notifies teachers and parents. If a student walked off the school grounds without permission, a voice alarm is activated.
China is a world leader in developing and applying technology for surveillance.
The Communist Party has been increasing surveillance efforts in the Xinjiang region as part of an ongoing crackdown on the Uighur Muslim population.
And even in the big cities, most of the wealthy electric-car drivers aren’t even aware that their vehicles could be collecting data and sending it back to “government-backed monitoring centers.”
Wang Ping, head of the labor union at Xiuwen High School in Guizhou, told state media that almost 1,000 first-graders have been wearing the tech-laden uniforms for over a month.
Students have two summer uniforms and two for winter, each reportedly costs 320 yuan ($47) in total — about the same price as common uniforms, China Daily reports. Xiuwen High School parent Zhao Shengyong said he is happy with the uniform’s monitoring function.
“The school is a boarding school, so it is hard for me to parent my son at home. This uniform can put some pressure on him and let him know that I will be notified if he skips classes,” he told China Daily. “It is hard to parent a teenager, and I need all the help I can get.”
A spokesman told China Daily that, aside from developing the technology, the company is committed to protecting privacy and only parents and teachers can access the information gathered.
Reporting on the smart uniforms has been circulating in state media, reflecting the Communist Party’s willingness to openly discuss, encourage, and normalize individual surveillance.
Under the growing authority of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Communist-run state is quickly becoming a digital autocracy, with vast networks of surveillance intersecting with draconian means of control.
In November, China rolled out surveillance software in Beijing and Shanghai which authorities say can identify people from their walking style, even with their backs turned and faces hidden.
The growth of China’s surveillance technology comes as the state rolls out an ambitious “social credit system” threatening to rank citizens through conformity and behavior, rewarding and punishing people in various ways, depending on their accumulative scores.