School trials biometrics for roll call

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20 June 2005 | 0

St. Andrews College in Blackrock, Dublin, has deployed a biometric system which requires students to log in of a morning via fingerprint scanning and an ID code. The centralised system then records the presence of each pupil, making parents aware of truancy by SMS, automated phone call or web site log in. 

 

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Headmaster Arthur Godsil has said that this frees teachers from the time consuming task of pupil registration each and every morning. Deployed by Glasnevin company Adrenalin, the system is called TruancyGuard and is being trialed for second year students. In development for over a year, it can be expanded for control of cafeteria or library services.

 

Following many UK schools who have used biometrics for similar purposes, St. Andrews hopes that the system will give them the security of being able to track pupils when the school is responsible for them while making that information easily available to the parents. However, certain UK schools have experienced problems with the technology.

 

The Venerable Bede Church of England Aided School in Sunderland, deployed a retina scanning system for their canteen. Supposed to be able to scan 12 pupils (no pun intended) a minute, it caused major problems last year when in reality it was hard pressed to scan 5 per minute. Hastily withdrawn, it was having its teething problems sorted out before re-introduction.

 

As we all remember from our own halcyon school days, the inventiveness of children is not to be discounted and it remains to be seen what avenues will be explored to find ways around the system. However, for those who do not have a suitable digit to proffer for scanning, a fob scan and card system is available. That said, the system can record up to 4 references from finger prints for each pupil, reducing the opportunity for ‘I’m sorry the dog ate my finger’! It is certain that there will be an element of novelty for the pupils having their prints scanned but the issue of privacy arises where ever biometrics are employed for identification purposes.

 

Andrenalin MD John Becket, assures that the software has taken these considerations into account the stored information is based on key points of each fingerprint as opposed to the actual fingerprint itself. Coupled with an encryption algorithm, the data remains safe and secure. When each child enters their public ID number, they have a print scanned. On enrolment the scanned image is reduced to key points called minutae points and then encrypted into a string. This process is repeated on each scan and it is the resultant encrypted strings that are compared for identification. ‘When the system for scanning and storage was explained to parents’ said Becket, ‘there were no objections.’

 

‘The scanners have 0.001% false identification rate’ said Becket. ‘The only problems are with injuries but as up to four prints can be stored per pupil, this can be handled’ he added.

 

This trial is sure to be closely watched as the applications are numerous not just in education, but anywhere that resources need to be controlled and allotted on a per person basis based on positive identification.

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