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Education Benefits from NFC Tags

Updated on December 25, 2015

The nexus of education and consumer technology

Do you remember when people were afraid of identification chips being inserted below the surface of their skin? Well that technology is no longer futuristic but has already progressed beyond the first generation. The now old idea is known as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) which is a passive readable technology. Its replacement is known as NFC (Near Field Technology), which allows for 2 way communication. Yes, data can not only be read from an NFC tag but it can also transmit data. When you think of NFC, think of things like Google Wallet which give mobile phone users the ability to pay for things at the checkout counter merely by passing their phones over a device that is equipped to use NFC technology.

But there is a lot more to NFC than making payments or balancing accounts. An NFC sticker can be purchased anywhere that they’re sold and then programmed to perform or trigger a series of actions on the phone or device that is reading it. For example a tag can be purchased and then encoded so that anyone who swipes their phone past the tag will have their phone muted. This is a basic example of how the tags could be used for example at the entrance of a conference room. Yet another example would be a tag within a car so that once a mobile phone is placed near it, the phone would be made ready for car use by turning on bluetooth and activating the nav system on the phone. There is also the traditional insertion of tags within ID cards.

Within the educational context there are many worthwhile applications. Think of teachers taking attendance, for example. Teachers have enough to deal with so how about automating attendance? With chips embedded in ID cards, students upon entering the classroom would bring their ID cards within inches of the reader and their attendance would be recorded. It could so happen that a particular student needs to report to the principal’s office and when his tag is read, a signal would be sent so that the student would follow through. Conversely if the student does not show up as having swiped then he would be deemed absent which would in turn trigger either an email or an SMS to his parents. Again these are some basic examples of possible NFC applications.

Of course like the aforementioned google wallet, NFC tags could be tied to bank accounts or specially set up debit accounts in a secure way so that students could swipe to pay for text books while away at college. Actually there’s no limit to what the tags could be used to pay for - let the imagination wander.

Think about a big college campus!! Imagine if NFC tags were set up in strategic locations so that students would be able to get their bearings if they swiped at the entrance of a building. Freshmen would certainly benefit from this actually everyone would especially if they’re on the campus of a large university.

On a similar train of thought, colleges have already began using NFC tags to regulate who gains entry to certain buildings. It’s a lot easier to set permissions centrally and if need be for an individual student based on any pre-determined criteria.

Security Considerations

Since NFC technology operates in a very small spacial radius, the possibility that there can be eavesdropping is much smaller, but not completely eliminated. Safeguards in place include canceling the NFC account and securing one’s phone with a password. In this day and age it is common knowledge that mobile phone owners should use passwords to protect their privacy and to prevent misuse of their phones.

What about things that are beyond your control? There’s the issue of spyware and the way that spyware interacts with information on your phone. Unfortunately some spyware collects information and coud eavesdrop on interactions with the NFC tag. In such potential cases it is not possible to detect the process or to guard against it. There are many antivirus mobile applications on the market but who is to say that they have the ability to immediately detect and eliminate such threats? There really is no guarantee.

This is to say that there is certainly risk but the risk does not necessarily meet or supercede the same threats that are present in phyiscal credit card use or any other sort of mobile communication.

With the Common Core standards and the massive amounts of information being reported, the greater automation we can realize the better that central coordinators can become and modifying education standards to reflect scientific findings rather than copying and guessing.


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