In Ireland, a School Uses Biometrics to Check-in Students

Trials of fingerprint recognition designed to tighten security by checking in the school's pupils


DUBLIN -- An Irish school has begun trials with a computerised fingerprint recognition system to tighten security and check in its pupils every day.

St Andrew's College in south Dublin is the first school in the country to use biometric technology.

Headmaster Arthur Godsill said Wednesday that the system was much more efficient than a daily roll-book check or either swipe cards or identity cards.

The pilot scheme with one class has been working for the past two weeks and it is planned to include all 1,200 pupils by the time the school re-opens after its summer break in September.

"There have been no foul-ups and the students seem to quite like the idea. It is working much more smoothly than I ever imagined," Godsill said.

St Andrew's is an exclusive fee-paying international school whose pupils include the children of foreign diplomats and high-profile Irish people.

The system records the time and where the student has checked in. When fully operational, it will also include another module that will involve sending out text messages to parents if a student doesn't turn up.

"Parents will get a message saying your child hasn't checked in this morning. If you know that he is sick press one and if you wish to speak to somebody press two and so on. There will be different interventions involved," Godsill said.

"The system is designed to know where the children are and to prevent intrusion. At the moment most schools are very open with easy access and you have had some horrendous situations in schools around the world where people have got in who shouldn't have."

"This process is unique because it identifies the individual student. Each student has a PIN number and with the fingerprint it literally takes just two seconds to check in," he added.

"On the positive side, it will free up a lot of time for form teachers to spend with classes and it will allow the children access services in the school. Someone can steal someone's swipe card and use it but you can't steal a finger."

Godsill said he had carefully checked out data protection and civil liberties issues for the system software that has been developed by past-pupil John Beckett, 23, of Adrenalin Internet Services.

"The process by which it takes the coordinates of the fingerprint and then moves that through to an encryption can't be replicated back the other way," the headmaster said.

Travelling abroad, he found that security on schools was much tighter than in Ireland.

"Thankfully in this country we haven't had need of tight security yet but no doubt it is coming down the line," Godsill said.