Monday, September 20, 2004

Biometric Finger Scans for Scottish Schoolkids

Primary school children to use their fingers at meal times
By Julia Fields

Scottish primary schools are set to pilot a new device that will allow children to buy their lunches with the swipe of a finger.
Developed over the past 18 months by Yarg Biometrics in Glasgow, the unit could in the longer term also eliminate the need for security ID cards and credit card PIN numbers.
The company, which is a spin-out of Scottish multi media firm ADS Visual Group, hopes to target the fast- growing user-authentication device world market, predicted to be worth $2.6 billion by 2006.
Yarg Biometrics has taken thermal-scanner technology which is made in the US and morphed it into a product that can recognise a person out of a database of 5000 within seconds.
The swipe unit recognises differences in temperature in the lines and curves of a finger. According to Yarg managing director Alan Cunningham, the use of thermal imaging makes the technology more secure as no print is left on the sensor. As recognition is also based on heat from the finger, a latex print could not be used, nor indeed would a dead finger register.
Cunningham added that the invention is particularly attractive to the education sector (for which they have a patent) because the software records 25 points rather than the child’s entire fingerprint and therefore does not violate civil liberties.
“We trialled the system in one Scottish primary school over the last two weeks in June and it was a great success” Cunningham said.
“The kids had no problems with it at all. The next stage is to sign up an order so we can begin installing the system in schools.”
A second trial at a school within the same local authority is planned for this autumn, and, according to Cunningham, eight other local authorities are waiting in the wings to see if the trials are successful.
The Scottish Executive’s proposal to have cash-less systems in place for catering in Scotland’s 3000 primary schools by 2005 was the catalyst for the development.
Eighteen months ago, a local authority asked ADS Visual, which has operated in Glasgow for the past 17 years and has experience with electronic graphics products, if it could come up with a cash-less paying system for school dinners that a younger child could more easily use.
It was thought that students of this age would lose swipe cards, requiring constant costly replacement.
After successfully developing the technology, ADS realised it could be used for other applications such as leisure club and casino membership identification, hotel room entry, security access for government or companies.
Ian Gray, ADS Visual’s managing director, decided to spin the technology out into a new company to focus solely on its commercialisation.
Cunningham said: “There are limitless applications for the unit. We are in discussion with a number of organisations who need door entry and access solutions, membership database solutions, staff time recording and even retail applications. I’d go as far as to say that in the future we won’t need door keys, only fingerswipe units.”
The company received a £25,000 grant from the Scottish Enterprise to develop its prototype but is now hoping to raise more funding from its senior executive team and other individuals.
Cunningham said: “We really want to get this product to market quickly.
“We need to become a market leader before someone else comes along and challenges us.

© newsquest (sunday herald) limited.