Put your fingerprints away – cards are increasingly replacing biometrics in schools

Contactless access cards are experiencing a resurgence as more schools move away from biometric fingerprint solutions

More schools are considering alternatives to fingerprint scanners due to hygiene concerns

Pre-COVID-19, a large proportion of High School and College students across the UK simply used their fingerprint to get through the front doors, check out their library books and pay for their lunch.

It was easy and smart, with the added advantage that the student wasn’t ever going to forget or lose them.

However all that has changed as schools prepare to reopen their doors to students after the Coronavirus shut down.

Schools under immense pressure to make their environment as safe as possible

A few years ago, fingerprint biometrics was hailed as the future. Many schools invested in the technology for both the security and admin advantages (less cards lost, less manpower needed to manage lunch payments etc.) and because it was a good means of future proofing from a security perspective.

Sure it was a significant investment and a lot of admin was required to get it up and running to ensure adherence to GDPR and gain parental consent, but it was worth it.

However in the ‘new normal’, schools are focused on reducing contact points and preventing cross-contamination wherever possible to reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus. And that means looking at alternatives to fingerprint scanners.

A different biometric solution then perhaps?

Could faces replace fingerprints?

Although many manufacturers assert that their products are still safe – the argument being that getting children to sterilise their hands before using it maintains better hygiene – many schools don’t want to take the risk.

Whereas other biometric options are available, like facial recognition for example, these can be prohibitively expensive and bring the need for further consent.

Every school in England and Wales needs explicit written consent from a parent or guardian to use and store the biometric data of a student under 18 years of age. This is often a lengthy process and one that involves numerous consultations with parents and guardians, so achieving it in a matter of weeks before the new term is almost impossible.

Contactless card systems seem to be the obvious choice

Though some might see the move back to a card based access solution as a retrogressive step, there’s a lot to be said for contactless cards. Indeed some biometric solutions support both – so some schools may be able to switch across without any significant upheaval.

The advantages of going contactless

  • Contactless tokens, contactless key fobs or contactless cards just need to be held in the proximity of the reader to register, making for ‘touchless’ entry
  • Your plastic contactless card can also act as an ID card when printed on using an ID Card Printer, clearly identifying staff and students
  • Plastic cards are easy to wipe down
  • You can also use a plastic card printer to create visual cards for each individual ‘bubble’ or group – making it easy to keep students in the right groups
  • There are a number of contactless systems on the market, many of which can support mobile credentials – making them ‘future’ ready, as we move increasingly towards using our phones for security and authentication.

At the other end of the scale, many colleges are having to upscale from older magstripe access control systems to reduce contact.

One thing’s for sure – COVID-19 has brought in new ways of working and studying for everyone. As we continue to adapt to a world where physical contact is reduced, we’re bound to see a lot more practices like security and access control changing for the forseeable future.