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RFID and the kids
Regine Debatty, 17 Feb 05

03-kindercity_10302004-243x154[1].jpg We might be worried about the arrival of RFID in our daily life, but our kids will probably feel very comfortable in a Big Brother world.

First, because they are getting increasingly tagged. When it's not for safety reasons, it's for fussless entertainement in amusement parks. Kindercity, in Switzerland, tags its young visitors with RFID microchips. As soon as children approach a particular attraction, the bracelet is activated. They are identified, and the price of the entrance is automatically taken from their account (just like an electronic wallet.)

Getting older, teenagers might want to be RFID'ed to gain access to nightclubs or bars.

But what could be decisive for the adoption of RFID by younger ones is the fact that the tech is now being integrated into some toys. Take Naoru-kun, a new doll by Bandai, it speaks 150 phrases and responds when it's shaken hands, hugged, petted, etc. But when Naoru-kun gets sick, kids have to use one of the items including "syringe," "candy" and "medicine." The doll reads RFID tags embedded in these items and responds accordingly.

Little Tikes has a series of toy kitchens full of interactive technology. The MagiCook Kitchen, for example, comes with pretend food embedded with electronic tags that can be read by sensors on the stovetop which then respond with the appropriate comment.

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One California school district set out to tag its students so their movements could be tracked within the school grounds. As the article reports, "The student tracking system uses radio frequency identification technology used mainly to monitor inventory and livestock."

Nor is the analogy being lost on this generation of kids. "[Parent Michelle] Tatro said when her 13-year-old daughter came home from the first day of school in January, when the students began wearing the tags, she had waved the tag in her fist and said, 'Look at this. I'm a grocery item. I'm a piece of meat. I'm an orange.' "

For now, however, privacy concerns have nixed the plan. Angry parents and the American Civil Liberties Union put pressure on the school district, which nipped the idea in the bud.

Posted by: Seth Zuckerman on 18 Feb 05



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