Tests of iris-scanning technology were derailed in a central Florida school district recently after parents expressed outrage that they weren't told about the program before their kids' eyes were scanned.
However, iris scanning could provide essential information to parents of bus-riding kids who don't arrive home at the expected time. The mobile devices could also identify the kids as they rush up the steps to board the buses.
Unlike older iris scanners , which required people to stand motionless in front of a screen for several seconds before their identity could be verified, the new devices can identify up to 50 people per minute who pass the scanner, according to Stanley Convergent Security Systems, which provided the scanners to Polk County, Fla., schools.
Students were enrolled in the program by having a photo taken of their iris, which remains unchanged after the first year of life. Iris scans are 200 times more accurate than fingerprints at identifying individuals, Stanley said on its website.
As children board a bus, the scanner takes a photograph of each student's eye. In a fraction of a second, the new photo is matched with an existing one in the school's database, along with the student's name and identification number. Each match is time-stamped and marked with the location, so school officials and parents can immediately see who has gotten on and off a bus.
The system was installed on school buses at Davenport School of the Arts, Daniel Jenkins Academy and Bethune Academy in Polk County, but has been suspended as officials work to address the concerns of parents worried about student privacy. The school sent out letters of apology for its oversight, but remains hopeful the system can be restarted in the future.
"Within seconds, we could tell parents, 'Yes, they got on bus No. 0750. They got on the bus at the high school at 2:05; they arrived at their bus stop at 2:45," Rob Davis, director of support services for Polk County schools, told a local Fox television station.
The school bus iris-scanning system can also be programmed to send text alerts to parents as children board and disembark their buses. In the meantime, parents can use their children's phones to monitor their kids' whereabouts in a similar way; most cellphone carriers provide a family tracking service, and apps can be installed for the same purpose.
However, these phone-dependent methods are only as reliable as the kids' ability to hold onto their phones.
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