A high school in Guangzhou, China has recently drawn attention and controversy by acquiring electronic bracelets for 3,500 students. The wearable technology is designed to track the students’ locations and behaviour in school and outside of it. Students are mandated to wear the devices by their school administrators.
School officials say the technology can help students be better at schoolwork and make school life easier and much more efficient.
The decision raised the ever-present question of the ethics of surveillance systems and the individual’s losing battle for the right to privacy. The privacy issue becomes doubly controversial considering the school will be tracking and storing the data of minors.
Once the data is stored in the cloud, and especially if data privacy laws vary from country to country, the data can easily fall into the wrong hands.
Experts argue that wearable technology is the next logical step to digital transformation, and some may say that the China high school’s move is a step in the right direction to digitalise the classroom.
Luisa Tam of the South China Morning Post elaborated on salient points about the benefits of wearable tech in the classroom. She believed that “Concerns about the recording of personal information and compromised liberty depend on the person in control of the device and his or her intentions.”
Wearable technologies have been making waves in the workplace throughout the last few years. Devices such as smart watches, smart wrist bands, and all sorts of smart accessories are designed to track, store, and share the person’s (mostly) fitness data.
Employers and insurances companies were among the first to see the value of tracking an employee’s fitness. A healthy worker means increased productivity and profit for the company. A healthy worker means less insurance claims and cheaper healthcare costs.
The goal of such wearable tech devices is to encourage workers (and now, students) to follow more active and healthy lifestyles and achieve their incentivised fitness goals. The data from the apps can be accessed by the employers and the schools.
But if a student’s or employee’s habits and performance outside of working hours is closely, continuously monitored and incentivised, does work ever end?