Scan Hands to Enter the ARC

New biometric scanners at the Anteater Recreation Center will allow patrons to skip the lines and enter with a swipe of their hand and a simple PIN number.

The technology, known as biometric hand geometry, serves as an alternative to traditional identification card access, which is problematic for many patrons who find they have forgotten their student ID card.

“The number one complaint we receive from students over the years is that they don’t want to have to always remember to bring their student ID,” said Jill Schindele, director of campus recreation. “It is a problem at every university in the country that has an ID card system.”

Besides convenience to guests, the scanners provide other benefits to ARC staff. Because the scanner is operated entirely by the user, the front desk staff is less occupied by swiping in guests and may focus on other activities.

Additionally, the new system will hopefully deter the illegitimate use of IDs, which often occurs when students allow their IDs to be borrowed. “This puts the student staff that catch people in a difficult position and also creates unfortunate penalties to the students who are involved,” Schindele said.

The installation of the scanners has occurred in conjunction with an upgrade to the ARC’s database software.

“We were told that if we were considering switching to biometrics, it was the best time so it could be integrated with the new technology,” Schindele said.

The biometric system operates by instantly analyzing 31,000 points and 90 measurements of a user’s hand. The user places his or her hand on a scanning pad, which records characteristics such as width, length and surface area. After the hand geometry has been verified, the user enters a pin number and is granted access.

Hand geometry identification was chosen over other technologies, such as thumb and handprint ID, due to concerns regarding guests’ privacy, said Janet Konami, associate director of business and technology for campus recreation.

Although the technology is far more advanced than traditional ID card entry, biometric access technology is not unique to UC Irvine.

“San Diego State has been using biometric readers for over 10 years,” Schindele said. “We considered it when we opened the ARC, but decided to wait to see how the system lasted over time.”

Cal State Fullerton and Cal State San Bernardino have also recently implemented biometric access systems in new recreation centers at their campuses.

According to Schindele, these schools have had success with the technology and it is well-liked by students and staff. So far, she’s had the same reaction at UCI.

The first three scanners, each purchased for approximately $2,000, were obtained early last summer. The system went into operation during the week of spring break, but identification card access is still accepted. Guests interested in using the scanner may register at the front desk of the ARC.

Schindele anticipates some chaos as students and staff adapt to the new system, but hopes it will become routine by next quarter, so that students forgetful of their ID will no longer have the inconvenience of being turned away.

“I feel kind of frustrated, especially when you’re going to a class you paid for,” said second-year Kristen Roomey, a frequent ARC patron, about being denied access after forgetting an ID card. “The scanner is very convenient. It’s great.”