Biometrics: Must-have Technology

Tuesday April 21st, 2015

Estimated time to read: 2 minutes

It the not so distant past, this sounded like science fiction:  use your fingerprint or retina to gain access to the super computer that rules the world!  But over the last decade or so, biometrics has become the must-have technology of employers wanting better workforce management.

From adoption to requirement

It was only a few years ago that employees would refuse to use a biometric time clock over privacy concerns.  Since the technology behind biometrics was not well understood by the laymen, rumors swirled around the workplace about how your fingerprint was going to end up in some government database for questionable purposes.  Today, biometrics is rapidly becoming the must-have technology to better manage a workforce.  Two tech behemoths are leading the charge.

In September 2013, Apple introduced the iPhone 5s with an integrated fingerprint sensor in the home button, eliminating the need to key in your PIN.  Millions of iPhone users are now daily biometric adopters.  Just scan a thumb to play one last round of Word with Friends or post that cute picture of your dog.

Microsoft has announced Windows Hello, a biometric feature of the new Windows 10 operating system.  Biometrics is no longer just about security, but personalization.  Here’s how Hello is described in a Microsoft blog:

“When we started building Windows 10, the team spent a lot of time and energy thinking about how to make computing more personal. We want your devices to recognize you, to understand what you’re saying … we want the experience to go wherever you do and we want you to feel a great sense of TRUST as you go.”  Biometrics most definitely has become personal.

Finger scan

As biometrics see a broader install base and increased adoption, it’s worth reviewing that finger scan. After your finger (retina, voice, hand geometry, etc.) is scanned, the biometric system converts that initial image into a numerical representation of your key, unique data points.  It is this number that is stored in the system, not your fingerprint.  Since this number is a result of a proprietary software process and only takes into account a subset of your data, this number cannot be converted back into your fingerprint.

Biometrics has been a part of time and attendance systems for years now and has yielded significant changes with these three primary benefits:

1)      Stops buddy punching.  Your coworker may be able to use your badge or PIN, but your fingerprint is not so easy.  By using a biometric time clock, the employee has to be present to punch in.

2)      No badges required.  Just key in your PIN and scan your finger.  This pretty much ends the days of “I left my badge at home.”

3)      Faster.  Older biometric time clocks required the user to key in their PIN or badge number first, then scan their finger.  Newer time clocks use technology that allows the employee to punch simply by placing their finger on the sensor.

While biometrics for time and attendance increases efficiency and streamlines payroll, it is crucial to explain how the system works and make sure employees understand and are comfortable with the process.  When they know eliminating hand written time sheets reduces time errors and results in faster payroll processing, their buy-in to biometrics becomes easier.

Technology is evolving at an astounding pace.  Acceptance and adoption by society won’t be far behind.  It won’t be long before you can start your car or unlock the front door using some form of biometrics. Until then, biometrics can make your time and attendance system much easier to manage.

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