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Irish college deploys fingerprint scanners

No bunking off for you, my lad

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It was with a little fanfare of trumpets that St Andrew's College in Dublin today announced it has rolled out a biometric student registering solution which allows the reading of kids' fingerprints without physically storing an image of same.

The TruancyGuard system - deployed by thrustingly-monikered Adrenalin - is being tested on one unfortunate class from the second year. School head Arthur Godsil explained the rationale: "Every morning it is the responsibility of the form teacher to register all pupils. This is a time consuming but necessary process as for safety reasons we need to know the whereabouts of our students at all times. However, if we can place the responsibility of registration directly on the pupils, this will free the individual form teachers' time to provide greater pastoral care to the students at that time."

Hmmm. We suspect the individual form teachers will use the precious extra minutes to fire up a quick cigarette and quaff another instant coffee. Can't say we blame 'em.

Back out in the corridors, meanwhile, pupils will be pressing their grubby fingers against a scanner which apparently uses a code to identify the digit's owner. Adrenalin MD, John Beckett, explained: "Some people hold reservations about allowing their biometric information to be stored. Accordingly, we have worked hard to ensure this problem is dealt with adequately in our software.

"Rather than storing fingerprint information on file, the fingerprint verification is conducted through specific points on the print, what is termed the 'minutae points'. This method has the same secure results as full fingerprint storage but protects the individuals' privacy through the non recording of their unique finger prints."

So, this encryption algorithm* approach to protecting personal data neatly side-steps the possibility of students and parents whining about their personal liberties. At the same time, though, TruancyGuard "administrators (managers or parents or staff) can monitor attendance in real time via a secure website. As, for example, the student logs in, this information will be immediately visible to parents online or by automated telephone system which uses 'Press 1 for latest attendance statistics' type menus."

Yup, the days of nipping off to the nearest shopping centre for a couple of hours to drink cider are well and truly over. And don't even think about turning up at school and saying "I can't register today cos the dog bit my finger off" - TruancyGuard features a smart-card back-up for those instances where "a pupil cannot physically scan his or her finger". ®

Technical note

*Their words, not ours. Thanks to those readers who have written in to say that Adrenalin's claims as to how the technology works are, ahem, suspect. We're staying out of this pending more info.

Related stories

UK school cans 'world-beating' biometric scanner
UK school plans retinal scans in the dinner queue
Fingerprinting of UK school kids causes outcry

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