Surveillance and Location Technologies Could Help Campuses Track Coronavirus

Beacons, smartphones, cameras and other technologies are being considered by campuses for contact tracing and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Surveillance and Location Technologies Could Help Campuses Track Coronavirus

With students returning to schools and universities this fall, campuses are being challenged with how to enforce social distancing as well as trace the contacts of students who test positive for COVID-19.

Some plan on using technology, such as beacons, infrared cameras, smart cameras and mobile apps to accomplish these tasks, reports Wired.

Because younger children normally don’t have smartphones, they may need specific devices that aren’t dependent on mobile phone technology. The New Albany-Plain (Ohio) school district will be testing a system requiring students to wear electronic beacons to track their locations throughout the day, including who they talk to and where this sit in classrooms.

This technology could help administrators determine if students are following social distancing protocols and identify someone who has been exposed to another person who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Some state universities in Massachusetts are also considering using beacons, reports Wired.

Contact tracing apps are another option for students with smartphones. The University of Arizona is developing such an app that would use Bluetooth signals sent between mobile phones to identify students who might be infected. Those individuals would then be tested and quarantined.

Other institutions of higher education are also developing different technologies, reports Wired. Potential security technologies that could be used for COVID-19 contact tracing purposes include smart card/identification card access control systems and video surveillance.

Of course, whatever campuses decide to use, they must ensure the data that’s collected is used correctly and complies with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The American Federation of Teachers issued guidance on how schools can safely reopen and provided the following recommendation to guard against the misuse of data by vendors:

“Establish rules, including contract language, that reassure faculty and students that corporate education vendors will not be using this crisis to enhance their data mining and in turn appropriate that data to expand prefabricated curriculum.”

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