New technology option lets students use fingerprints to access dining halls

Marshall University’s Campus Card Office and the information technology department collaborated to create an alternative to swiping student IDs to enter Towers Marketplace and Harless Dining Hall. Students can now register their fingerprints to access entry to the dining halls instead of using their IDs. 

Bob Dorado, campus card manager, said the system will not replace IDs but rather add another option for utilizing the dining halls.

“It works exactly like if you were presenting your meal card or ID card,” Dorado said. “It’s just using your fingerprint. It works through the same card system. It deducts your meals, it checks your balances, it’s just another option in place of the card.”

Dorado said he wants to stress the system does not register or keep students’ actual fingerprints, but it does store biometric and biological information and unique measurements of everyone’s fingerprints. High schools and other universities have been using the technology, and Dorado said his department wanted to bring it to Marshall.

“It’s something we’ve been looking at for a long time just because it’s becoming pretty common place,” Dorado said. “It’s used on your iPhone, iPad. We found out a lot of schools actually use this, like high schools and other schools use it in cafeterias. It’s something we’ve looked at for a long time, we’re always concerned about the security and the price, and all those things have evolved to where it’s an affordable solution and it’s very secure.”

While the new system is being tested for now, Dorado said it is already working well, and if it remains successful, Marshall will continue its use next semester and may even expand into other areas of campus.

“I think as long as things go well here the remainder of this semester, it’ll be back and maybe in some other places,” Dorado said. “It’s very possible. We’re still working with it. The places that have the actual dollar amounts or the machines that do credit cards have a little different security. I certainly hope we can; I think in time we will. This was just kind of a good place to test the technology and how it worked with our card system, and so far, it’s gone really well.”

One of the main reasons the Campus Card Office decided to implement the new system was for convenience.

“Like the fingerprint options or any of those biometric options, it’s just the greatest convenience, because you don’t need to have anything,” Dorado said. “You can forget your card, or you don’t have your card with you, but you can still go in and eat or whatever the purpose is. I think it will definitely grow on campus if this test is successful, which so far, we’ve had zero problems.”

Interested students with meal plans are able to stop by the Campus Card Office located on the first floor of Drinko Library to scan their fingerprints, anytime Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Dorado said enrolling takes less than a minute and consists of scans of the right and left index fingers.

“Our main interest in it is obviously convenience, but on the same side, it can help with theft, because if somebody gives their meal card to another person to use or sneak in, that raises the food cost for everybody,” Dorado said. “So, the more secure we have our entry, especially to those kinds of cafeterias where you don’t have a set amount of meals or something, and that helps everybody. The less theft helps keep costs down. That’s another benefit of it, but as far as the test goes, what we’re doing now is really about convenience.”

Amanda Larch can be contacted at [email protected].