Is it becoming easier for schools to embrace biometric technology?

With Paxton recently announcing the integration of biometrics within its Net2 access control system, is one of the main stumbling block for schools – that of cost – about to be negated?

The argument for and against biometrics within schools and educational establishments has been rife for some time now. For many parents and pupils, the argument against implementing biometric measures such as fingerprint or iris scanning centres around the invasion of privacy.

This, and the fact that they make the act of tracking and monitoring of pupil’s movements and behaviour seem ‘normal’.

For the establishments themselves, there is almost always a financial consideration too. Biometrics technology comes at a cost – not just in terms of the technology itself, but also of the administration time needed to turn it into a reality.

For smaller schools with smaller budgets, these considerations mean it just hasn’t been a realistic topic on the agenda.

But is all that set to change?

One of the most popular access systems used by schools, colleges and institutions around the country is the Paxton Net2 system. The reasons for this are many. It’s competitively priced and easy to install and manage. The associated keyfobs, cards or tokens aren’t expensive either, so ongoing costs are kept at a minimum. In short, Paxton are known for their reliability and for being user friendly, without breaking the bank.

Until very recently, if you wanted to bring biometrics in to school, you would most likely need to invest in an entirely new access system.

However Paxton has just announced that Suprema’s industry leading biometric technology is to be integrated into the Paxton Net2 system.

Which means what exactly?

According to Paxton’s press release, this new integration “seamlessly connects Suprema’s biometric access control readers and Paxton’s Net2software”. It means you’ll be able to ‘plug in’ biometric capabilities into your existing Paxton Net2 software, allowing you to enroll users and create ‘biometric tokens’.

It means that the argument against using biometrics due to financial constraints or heavy administration requirements just lost some ground.

Smaller schools who previously rejected the idea as an impossibility may soon be bringing the subject up again for debate.

Let’s not forget the benefits

Biometrics enable ‘true identity’ – a fingerprint or iris/vein scan can’t be borrowed or copied in the way that an ID card can. Then there’s speed and convenience when it’s used in the library to check out books, for example. And the ‘cool’ factor from the perspective of the pupils – it’s fun to scan your finger to pay for your lunch (and it facilitates equality too, as no-one knows who qualifies for free school meals).

But as with all things of this nature, the implementation of such measures needs to be handled with caution, and with proper consultation with parents.

A piece of research published last year by Big Brother Watch based on data from the 2012-13 academic year revealed that an estimated 40% of schools in England are already using biometric systems. It therefore surmised that fingerprints have already been taken from more than one million school pupils; many without their parents’ consent.

Do you think that the integration of biometric technology into the Net2 system will pave the way for biometric measures being more widely used within schools? Let us know what you think.