SIOUX FALLS, SD It sounds like a science fiction movie: identifying students through a scan of the iris of their eyes.
But the technology has actually been around for quite awhile and a South Dakota company has found an application for it that is starting to gain international attention.
Blinkspot hopes to revolutionize safety on school buses all over the world. Riding the bus is something 26-million kids do every day. But the small district of Chester got to be on the cutting edge of making that ride more secure, thanks to a South Dakota company called Blinkspot.
“We really take pride that we were the first ever to create a mobile application of iris technology for the commercial marketplace. It’s never been done,” Michael Hagan of Blinkspot said.
It’s like something out of a science fiction film. In the Tom Cruise movie, “Minority Report”, iris scanners were used for identification everywhere.
“Your left and your right eye are unique. They do not match. And no two eyes are alike,” Hagan said.
But as futuristic as it sounds, it’s also very simplistic.
“It’s simply just going like that. That is the registration process. What makes it really unique, once we register child in system it is good for their entire academic career,” Hagan said.
The binocular-style camera is mounted on the bus, and the driver has a tablet to tally the students.
“They will walk up to camera; look into it, that’s all they have to do. The driver is going to see this image, a buzz for bad, ping for good, letting them know that is the right child, or right bus, or if the child has gotten on the wrong bus,” Hagan said.
Blinkspot officials say it can end the problem of kids getting on the wrong bus, getting off at the wrong stop or being forgotten on the bus or left behind at a field trip.
Immediately after a child looks into a Blinkspot camera, parents are notified via email that their child has boarded a bus. They even get a map of where they are in real time.
“You also need the parents’ approval. You need to get them to buy into this and that’s been our biggest advocates; when parents start to receive these email notifications, they really start to feel they can take control and ownership into it,” Hagan said.
Parents say as long as their child’s information is secure, they’re all for it.
“I know today people are pretty worried about the exposure of their children with Facebook and social media. But as long as it was intended for safety and you being able to know where your child is; that they’re not left behind, yeah, I would be for that,” Dad Erin McManus said.
“I think it is a good idea. It’s always good to know where your child is, every second of the day. I used to work in the schools in a different state and I have heard of kids being left on the bus or getting dropped off at the wrong spot. I don’t see anything wrong with it,” Mom Jill Malloy said.
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Just a few of my own personal thoughts here. I grew up riding the school bus to and from school. The driver always knew who was and was not to be on the bus. Teachers and parents always counted children on field trips. To my knowledge no one was ever left behind on a field trip. I know the drivers of the buses I rode, walked through the bus on return to the bus barn. To be fair, I did get off a school bus at the wrong building my first day of first grade. Somehow, I survived, and never did that again. Of course I want children to be safe. My question is, “How much of our privacy are we willing to give up in the name of safety?”