North Adams Public School officials have decided to implement a new biometric identification system in school cafeterias that they claim will save time and money.
North Adams Public Schools, located in Massachusetts, are implementing the new system this year in conjunction with the biometrics company identiMetrics, to the lunch line this school year.
According to The Berkshire Eagle News, North Adams will be the first school district in Berkshire County to leverage the biometric system, which cost about $10,000.
Rather than swipe a card or enter a PIN number, students will present a fingerprint to a scanner to purchase a meal. The system recognizes the student by a series, or grid, of points on his or her fingerprint and deducts the cost of lunch from the student’s account.
The students’ fingerprint data always safeguarded, as the system does not take an image of the fingerprint, rather it takes a grid of points from the student’s fingerprint. That grid of points is then converted into binary code, encrypted, saved and paired with the student’s account.
“The cafeteria manager doesn’t even see anything happening,” says Corbett Nicholas, the director of food services at North Adams Public Schools. “You can’t open a file and see a bunch of fingerprints or unique points.”
The current system relies on the cafeteria manager to debit a student’s account based on visually recognizing the child or asking for a name – a system that often results in errors.
In addition to sometimes being inaccurate, the process could be slow. At neighboring Drury High School, a PIN system was being used, but as Nicholas explains some students were sharing information.
It then falls to the district to respond to those complaints and correct any fraudulent charges. Some districts use identification cards, but Nicholas believes the cost of replacing lost cards outweighs the benefits. He believes that in time saved alone, the fingerprint biometric system will pay for itself.
According to identiMetrics’ CEO and cofounder Jay Fry, the company has installed its biometric system in nearly 1,000 school districts nationwide.