On Campus and No ID? Just Use the Retinal Scanner

College campuses turning to biometrics for access control at halls, labs, gyms, cafeterias


May said the system was installed in the fall of 2003, when the university switched to a new unlimited dining plan, giving students unlimited access to dining halls.

"We felt that the [dining hall workers] could not be accountable for correctly identifying all the students who entered the dining halls," he said.

May said the new system makes sure that only students with the correct dining plans are entering the dining halls.

"There is a keypad and a flat form that has pegs and [the student] sticks their hand down and squeezes the peg confirming that yes, they have the dining plan or no, they do not," May said. "If they do in fact have the dining plan, the light goes green, and it allows the student to enter the turnstile."

May said when the system was first implemented, students had trouble correctly squeezing the pegs, but since then, the system has proved to be a great success.

According to May, dining hall workers at the entrance to the dining halls sanitize the machine every 15 minutes to prevent the spread of illness. There are also hand sanitizers at every station.

But Anne Layden, a junior, said students get sick from the devices all the time because many do not use the hand sanitizer lotion provided at the station.

Layden said the machine looks "futuristic," like something from the movie "Gattaca."

The hand geometry system is easier for students because they do not need to remember to bring their ID cards around campus, she said.

Boston University spokesman Colin Riley said that though biometric identification technology can be very effective, the university has no plans to install such a system anywhere on the Charles River Campus.

"The university certainly recognizes and understands it, and if the situation arises in the future where it is needed, it will be looked at very closely," he said.

Riley said the university has very effective 24-hour security in place on all university dormitories and a strong support system from campus police and Boston Police, so there is no need for a biometric identification system right now.

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