Biometric Attendance Systems: The lowdown

Biometric Attendance Systems: The lowdown

Some people see them as violating privacy, others won’t consider any other method when it comes to clocking in their workforce. But are biometric attendance systems really saint or sinner? And, if they get the results you need, does it even matter?

There are many words people can – and do – use to describe time and attendance systems (practical, useful, efficient, etc.). But of all the possible ways to clock in and out, there’s only one that has the power to open up a rather controversial debate: biometric attendance systems.

The main reason for this is a time-old case of fear of the unknown. Because much, if not all, of the enigma surrounding what they are and how they actually work, and thus the suspicion, evaporates into thin air when once you get under their metaphorical bonnet and better understand their functionality.

What exactly is biometric identification and how does it work in relation to employee attendance?

Every person has unique biometric credentials – fingerprints and face, which are impossible to copy. Biometric systems work by only allowing access when there is a match between the finger or face being presented, and the information stored on the system in relation to that same person

What’s really important to note here, is the fact that the system does not store fingerprints themselves. When we use either our fingerprints or face to clock in, it’s not the biometric information that is sent to the account. What is sent is a specific code or template, generated from the biometric information, almost like a connect-the-dots, which can be used to unlock a secret key stored on the device, granting login.

For fingerprints, a detailed scan of a person’s finger or fingers is made using surface and subsurface information of the skin, creating an extremely accurate digital image. Specific points from the scan are converted into a unique digital template or code, which is later used for identification purposes.

Regarding facial recognition, special cameras are used to analyse faces and then to create a digital representation (let’s call it a faceprint), which is unique to each individual and used as proof of identity.

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What are the main advantages of biometric attendance systems?

  • By far, biometric terminals offer the most accurate method of employee identification. In other words, you know, without doubt that the right member of staff is being clocked for the correct number of hours worked.
  • Elimination of time theft. Buddy clocking is a massive headache for many businesses, but using biometric identification basically makes this a thing of the past. Anyone can swipe a colleague’s card on their behalf to clock them in – it’s considerably harder if you require their finger or face!
  • Facial recognition terminals are contactless. This makes them ideal in environments where protective hand gear needs to be worn (saving having to remove the gloves every time, etc) or sterile environments where avoiding the potential spread of germs is paramount.
  • Correct payroll calculations. Hand in hand with accuracy goes the fact that, when you are sure you have the right worker in the right place at the right time, you also guarantee they are paid exactly for their hours worked, including any overtime.
  • No accessories to lose/replace. Forget swipe cards, key fobs or any other type of accessory that is all-to-easily lost or damaged and therefore needs to be replaced – normally at a cost to you. A great argument in favour of biometric attendance systems is the fact that you always have the necessary accessory on you – unless you’re in the habit of leaving the house without your face and fingers, that is…

Are there any downsides?

Sure. Everything has pros and cons.

  • Biometric attendance terminals require sophisticated hardware and are therefore significantly more expensive than options such as web or smartphone app clocking
  • Biometric systems are more sensitive to change – an injury to the skin of a finger may, for example, make the fingerprint unreadable, albeit temporarily.
  • These systems are only suitable at a specific place of work – they cannot be used for remote workers, multi-site employees or employees travelling around as part of their job.

As with everything else, it all comes down to your business’s unique needs. If you’d like more information about biometric or any other of our employee attendance systems, book a demo or contact us for a chat.

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