The Increasing Popularity of Biometric Time and Attendance Systems
Tuesday January 20th, 2015
Estimated time to read: 2 minutes, 30 seconds
Biometrics has been all the rage for the past few years. From time clocks to sophisticated security systems, some type of biometric device is often involved. In time and attendance systems, utilizing biometrics helps reduce fraud, frequently referred to as buddy punching. You might be able to give your badge to your buddy, but you wouldn’t want to give him your finger. Well, then again …
Biometrics is technology that uses physical characteristics to either identify or verify an individual. We'll delve into ID vs. verify in a bit. There are more types of biometrics than you have fingers (pun intended).
Biometric Technologies in Time and Attendance Systems
Here are a few common options found in biometric time and attendance systems:
Finger scan: the most often implemented biometric technology in the industry. These systems analyze the fingerprint, identifying unique patterns in the swirls of skin. The actual fingerprint is not stored anywhere in the system.
Vein readers: using infrared light, these sensors look at the pattern on the small veins just under the skin.
Facial recognition: the facial recognition systems measure the geometry of the face. Distance between the eyes, distance from the mouth the nose, etc.
Retina scan: similar to finger vein scan, but this technology examines the vein pattern in the eye’s retina.
Iris scan: similar to a retina scan, but looks at the pattern of the iris in the eye.
How a finger scan works
All finger scan biometric time and attendance systems work in a similar fashion. The process begins by registering a master template of the employee's finger. When the employee places their finger on the scanner, the device analyzes the image looking for unique identifiers such as the loops, swirls and other patterns of the fingerprint. Using proprietary algorithms, this collection of data points is converted into a numeric value. It is this number that is stored as a template and not the actual finger print. This distinction is important. It is impossible to reconstruct a fingerprint from this template (numeric value).
To punch in or out for work or a meal break, the employee places their finger on the scanner and the image is analyzed. The newly captured data is compared to the stored template. If they match within a defined amount of tolerance, the punch is accepted.
Here are some important points to remember:
- A better quality image of the fingerprint will produce more data points. If the finger was on the scanner crooked you might only get half the data points needed for a reliable match. Therefore, it is vital the person registering the employee is well trained and the sensor on the clock is cleaned regularly.
- Vendors create their own algorithms so a template from one system will not work on a different device.
With the release of the iPhone 6 last year, biometric technology was introduced to the masses. With a biometric time and attendance system, the employee benefits by not carrying a badge that might get lost. The employer benefits by reducing possible fraud.
Identification and verification
Many time clocks, such as the Velocity sold by Infinisource, use the 1:1 (one to one) verification method. The employee identifies themselves by entering their PIN or swiping a badge. The clock retrieves their template based on this action and prompts the employee to scan their finger. Comparing this latest scan to the master template verifies if this is the employee that belongs to the PIN or badge. The primary advantage with this process is speed. The clock only needs to compare the new scan to one stored template.
Infinisource will be releasing a new clock soon with the 1:N (one to many) process to identify the employee. The employee simply scans their finger, no PIN or badge required. The clock will search all of the templates stored to find the one that matches. Until recently, this search and match process was slow and could last several seconds. However, new technology and sensors now complete this process in one to three seconds, depending on the number of templates stored.
Just as paper time cards have served their purpose, so too may the badge as technology and biometric time and attendance systems become more prevalent.
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