Biometrics Provides Alternative to ID Card at West Virginia U.

Student recreation center tries out hand geometry scanner for access control


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia University's Student Recreation Center has added a biometric hand scanner as a means of gaining admittance to the facility in addition to the card swiping system already in place.

Students, faculty and staff interested in using the scanner instead of their WVU identification cards must first sign up for the program at a table set up near the entrance of the gym. Representatives will be there to sign people up from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

The scanner is a flat surface with five metal posts embedded in it. When registering for the service, the user places his or her hand on the surface with each finger touching a corresponding post. Three measurements are taken, and the average is saved to the student's account.

When entering the facility students must first enter their WVU identification number into the machine, then place their hand on the scanner for approval.

Once registered for the program, Rec Center patrons are no longer able to use their ID cards to gain admittance; only the scanner can be used.

"The primary reason that we brought in this device was convenience for students," said Carolyn McDaniel, assistant director of Student Affairs Business Operations. "The students have said that they don't want to bring their card. It is one more thing for them to keep track of.

"The Rec Center is probably the place where cards are most often lost."

McDaniel also said about five lost student ID cards are found by Rec Center employees every day.

"We looked into the best way to solve this problem, and biometric hand geometry was the best way to go," McDaniel said. "Now students don't forget their hand because they have it with them."

According to McDaniel, about 30 to 40 percent of students coming into the Rec Center have signed up for the hand scanner system, while others choose to remain with the card swipe system.

The project cost about $15,000 for the scanner, a new turnstile, several registration scanners and installation. The cost of the entrance scanner and turnstile were absorbed by the Rec Center, with the Office of Student Affairs footing the rest of the bill.

Reaction among students to the new entrance system has been mixed since the machine was made available for use this past Tuesday.

"Right now more people are using the card because they are used to it, but I think more people will switch over," said Kate Sillars, a front desk employee at the center.

"I use my card, I have a feeling that thing isn't going to work very well when there is a line. It takes longer to scan your hand then it does to swipe your card."

Many also felt positively about the scanner as an addition to the Rec Center.

"I think this is a very positive thing, especially for new students coming in. If incoming freshmen and other underclassmen sign up for this system it will probably reduce lines and lost cards significantly," senior Jon Jaraiedi said.

According to McDaniel, the card services office is hoping for about 40 percent of students to sign up for the system to keep lines moving ideally.

WVU Dining Services has also expressed an interest in the technology for students with meal plans.

[U-Wire -- 04/24/06]