UNH dining to switch from full hand to finger scanners

Bret Belden

By JJ Hatzibiros
Contributing Writer
UNH students who have grown tired of long lines to get into the dining halls will finally get their wish for a change in the fall.
Dining Services will be implementing a system of biometric finger and vein scanning for all meal- plan holders who are looking to gain access to the dining halls next semester. The system will replace all current options used by students, such as swiping a student ID or entering an ID number on a keypad.
“We are excited about the advantages this new technology offers,” said Jon Plodzik, director of Dining Services.
The switch to biometric scanners is a part of the expansion of Holloway Commons which is scheduled to start on May 1 and commence in December 2015. The expansion is expected to add 350 additional seats and improve accessibility within the building by adding a new point of entry.
According to MacDonald, UNH director of Business Affairs, the idea to bring finger recognition technology to campus was suggested by Brian Gaon director of IT security and preparedness. He disliked the university’s original idea of iris scanners.
“One of the reasons that we’re making the switch to finger recognition technology is that the hand recognition technology that we have now is a separate system from our financial system [on Blackboard],” said MacDonald. “The finger recognition technology will be integrated seamlessly with Blackboard so that [financial details] will all be in one system.”
UNH has partnered with Blackboard, which has been developing software that will integrate finger recognition with the financial software that they already offer. This means that Blackboard will immediately recognize payment from a student once they scan their finger.
Blackboard is essentially monitoring the use of their software at UNH as a trial run, as UNH is the first school in the country to test the software out.
UNH similarly helped pioneer the hand recognition technology that is currently present in the dining halls back in 2003 as one of the first schools that adopted the technology.
For students worried about the privacy of their fingerprints, MacDonald says that the technology does not actually store students’ fingerprints in a database.
“It’s like your iPhone,” MacDonald said. “It measures the vein pattern in your fingertips as well as your fingerprints to create an algorithm, but nothing is stored. When students scan their fingers, the algorithm will match up the same with the one they got when they signed up.”
Students are able to register to have their fingers scanned at any of the three dining hall locations on campus. The process lasts about five minutes and is available for students through the end of the school week who wish to beat the rush.