Some Temple Departments, including Facilities Management, have started testing finger scanners to track time for employees, instead of more traditional time cards.
The finger scanners are attached to a time clock, so when an employee swipes their ID card to sign in or out, they must also place their finger on a small panel. The device scans the finger and compares it to a stored image of the employee’s fingerprint to verify the cardholder’s identity. Departments at Temple Hospital are already using the new scanners and have been since the summer.
Finger-scanners are a biometric technology that analyzes a person’s fingerprint to verify their identity. Biometrics are “automated methods of recognizing a person based on a physiological or behavioral characteristic,” according to the Biometrics Consortium. Biometrics is considered the most secure way of authenticating a person’s identity because they are next to impossible to forge. Other biometrics commonly used for identity verification are face, hand geometry, iris, retinal, vein and voice prints.
Finger scanners may seem like the stuff of James Bond, but they have been widely used in recent years by institutions of all shapes and sizes looking for an added measure of security. In January 2004, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security started using finger scanners at major points of entry to track people visiting the United States as part of its US-VISIT program.
Finger-scanning and fingerprinting are two different things. According to Kronos, the company providing Temple with its finger scanners, fingerprinting is “the collection and storage of the fingerprint image.” Fingerprints are used by the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) for law-enforcement and forensic purposes. AFIS is a nationwide database that stores 70 million fingerprints used by the FBI and other agencies, according to the Biometrics Research Center at Michigan
When a Kronos terminal scans a finger “only a digital representation of the fingerprint is stored” according to a document on Kronos’ Web site titled “Ease Employees’ Privacy Concerns about Biometric Technology.”
AFIS uses what is called “minutia-based comparison techniques,” according to Kronos. With this method, the entire fingerprint including any imperfections is used. The technology behind the Kronos’ scanners enhances and compresses the fingerprint image resulting in a “mathematical representation” of the print. Because of this, Kronos says, “it is nearly impossible to restore the original [fingerprint] image.”
But employees in departments adopting finger scanners must still be fingerprinted, causing some to express concerns about this new technology. Two nurses in the Cardiology Department at Temple Hospital, Shannon, who did not wish to have her last name printed, and Joanna Cannon, said they do not think Temple should have their fingerprints.
The new system will provide an extra measure of security for Temple employees. Julia Forman, Lead Software Developer for Administrative Computer Services, says the new finger scans will prevent what she calls “buddy punching” and will ensure that an ID card being swiped belongs to the person swiping the card.
When asked if there had been a problem with buddy punching that prompted interest in finger scanners, Forman said she was not aware of any.
Forman also said that under the old timesheet or punch-card systems, time data had to be manually entered into a computer. With the finger scanners, the data is automatically recorded into a computer when an employee signs in or out.
Since the scanners are still being tested on Main Campus, Forman said she has not received any complaints but predicts that there could be some resistance to change and problems adjusting to the new system. Forman said that the second phase of implementation for the scanners will be completed by February at which point several new hospital departments will begin using the scanners.
Facilities Management is scheduled to continue testing into December and hopes to start using the scanners by mid-December, according to Eileen McShea.
Brendan I. Keegan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.