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Radio Tracking Technology Now Being Used for Food Safety, Student Attendance

RFID in electronic toll device / Photo, JM Perez

If you have bought a SmarTrip card or obtained a U.S. passport in the last few years, you have used RFID technology, possibly without even knowing. Radio frequency identification technology was originally a way to track cattle across acres-large farmland. Now, it’s being applied to a host of other uses, including everything from tracking fresh produce to students’ class attendance.

With this summer’s recalls on eggs causing consumer worry, many food producers are looking to implement RFIDs on their products to easily trace them should another recall occur. IBM is current in talks with growers associations in California to introduce tracking devices on food in that state, according to the LA Times. The state of Hawaii is testing an RFID pilot program to track fresh produce, including tomatoes, pineapples and other local produce.

Although using RFID for consumer goods has received little criticism, tracking people is one of its more controversial applications. Students in two Houston school districts are required to wear badges with RFID sensors to prevent truancy and encourage attendance. With some school funding tied to attendance rates, the badges are seen by school administrators as a boon, despite the potential privacy risks.

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