What are fingerprint access control devices?
Fingerprint access control is a relatively newer entrant on the physical access control scene. Computerized access control has been traditionally based either on something that one has such as a magnetic or a chip card, or it has been based on something that one knows such as a password or a PIN. Both of these ways of authenticating a person are error-prone since a card can be misplaced and passwords can be forgotten or shared. To counter the inherent disadvantages of a password or a chip card based access control, biometrics slowly started getting recognition as a uniquely identifying characteristic(s) of any individual.
To use fingerprint-based access control system, an organization needs to have a database where all enrolled employees’ fingerprints are digitally stored. Access to desired physical areas or rooms can then be controlled with fingerprint scanners installed on their entrance. Any person who wishes to enter these areas then needs to swipe his or her finger on the scanner, which scans the prints and sends them to the server where pattern matching algorithms check for a match against the stored fingerprints. If a positive match is found, then the server activates the door opening mechanism with no human intervention required.
The below diagram illustrates fingerprint based biometric authentication mechanism –
Fingerprint Biometrics: Choice of modality
Biometrics offers an alternative way of authentication based on something that really characterizes a person uniquely such as his iris/retinal scan or his fingerprints. With advancements in scanning devices and pattern matching algorithms, automation of biometric authentications became a possibility. Of the various forms of biometric authentications, fingerprint based authentication is one of the most widely accepted forms due to its affordability and decent levels of accuracy. Organizations which were using the chip or smart-card based physical access control mechanisms were increasingly bearing the brunt of the practice known as buddy punching. In buddy punching, employees would just swipe for their colleagues or pass them their own smart cards to allow them to gain physical access to an access-controlled area. Fingerprint-based authentication systems brought in an approach which was difficult to abuse as well as was within the budgets of companies. Thus, fingerprint based authentication solutions have slowly gained acceptance and have become the de-facto mode of biometric authentication systems.
Employee time-keeping using fingerprint access control devices
With the increasing acceptance and use of fingerprint-based access control, employers started getting a wealth of information regarding their employees. These included the exact time when they first “logged-in” or came to office, the time spent on tea and lunch, and finally the time when they “logged-out” or left office. Organizations started realizing that maintaining logbooks or registers of attendance was an unnecessary burden they could avoid as all that data was already in their database in the form of captured times. All they needed to do was retrieve it in a form that it made sense. With this realization, organizations started developing time-keeping applications or solutions which was integrated with the fingerprinting-based access control solutions. The times at which employee’s fingerprint data was captured at the entry and exit scanners would be directly fed into the timekeeping and attendance systems.
Not only did fingerprint based biometric authentication systems make employees life easier because they no longer needed to make a register entry for their daily attendance, it also made the working of the organization much more efficient.
Have a look at the diagram below –
The above diagram shows a fingerprint based access control system which authenticates users enrolled in the system by searching for a match in the centralized database containing the fingerprint images of all the users. To use this information for attendance and time keeping, the centralized database for access control needs to be synced with the attendance and timekeeping server. The attendance and timekeeping server can then be integrated with finance and payroll department and the HR department.
Some popular fingerprint based biometric access control devices –
Who can use fingerprint access control
Finance and payroll department needs the employee access data for calculating the days of the month the employee attended office and for how long a duration. Most of the professional organizations provide flexi-timing i.e. an employee can walk-in and go out whenever he wants but with a caveat. There is the condition that for qualifying for a full day’s work credit they need to work for minimum of say X amount of hours (let’ say X= 9 hours). Similarly, they need to work for a minimum of say Y amount of hours (let’s say Y= 4 hours) for them to be considered for a half-day’s pay. The centralized database for access control already contains the day-wise information of employee in and out times.
Using this data all that remains is to apply a simple formula to calculate the time employee spent in office –
An employee will then fall into one of the three brackets every day –
- Time Spent in office >= X, i.e. equal to or more than 9 hrs, implies he gets a full-day salary
- Time Spent in office < Y, i.e. less than 4 hrs, implies he doesn’t get any salary for that day
- Y <= Time Spent in office < X, i.e. between 4 and 9 hours, implies that he gets half-day’s salary
Let’s now take the case of three employees – Tom, Dick and Harry for April 1st of 2016.
Tom logs-in at 9 am and logs-out at 8 pm. He spends 11 hours in office which is greater than 9 hours. Hence, Tom gets a full day’s salary.
Dick logs-in at 11 am and logs-out at 4 pm. He spends 5 hours in office which is less than 9 hours required for a full day’s pay but greater than 4 hours required for a half-day’s pay. Dick then gets only half day’s salary for April 1st 2016.
Harry logs-in at 11 am but has to rush home due to an emergency. So, he logs-out at 2 pm. He spends 3 hours in office which is less than the 4 hours required for half day’s pay. Harry is paid no salary for the day!
Such a calculation per month per employee per day is very simple and straight-forward for a software report to calculate and print in a matter of minutes. Employee time-keeping then becomes a job which can be completed in minutes using the already established infrastructure of fingerprint access control and the database in which employee access times are captured.
Similar to the finance department, HR Department, when integrated with the access control database, can also use the employee log-in and log-out times for calculating leave information. An employee CL or Casual Leaves can then be automatically detected by the system and logged with the HR department via such an integrated system.
Employee productivity improvement by using fingerprint authentication
Fingerprint-based access control and time-clock systems have the direct benefits of reducing time-keeping overheads along with low rate of faults or mistakes committed in the computations. Organizations which have implemented fingerprint-based attendance systems have noticed a derived benefit of employee productivity getting enhanced after access control and timekeeping based on fingerprint-controlled access were started by them.
Let us now have a look at the benefits which have been observed and noted in a variety of studies around such implementations –
Prevents employee time theft and buddy punching
When employees earn salary for time that they haven’t actually spent on working then it is known as time theft. In traditional timekeeping systems employees accomplish this by various means such as signing the register and going out from office, somebody else signing or punching in for them (known as buddy punching), or even loitering around inside the office in common areas such as canteens. Biometric-based automated attendance systems eliminate all of these tricks of time stealing.
Payroll department becomes more efficient as payroll calculation is automated
In a traditional time-keeping systems, attendance information is maintained in log books or registers. At the end of the month, someone from the finance department needs to sit and spend hours in calculating the actual number of days worked for each employee. While in the case of an automated fingerprint biometrics based attendance system, it is just a matter of printing out the right report or simply syncing the attendance data to the payroll producing database, thus directly calculating the payrolls from the attendance data itself. Payroll department’s productivity is thus increased by a few notches.
HR Department is less burdened with Employee Self Service (ESS)
Most of the companies implementing fingerprint based attendance systems realize that the data for daily log-ins and log-outs can be made available to the employees themselves to view and check with regards to any incorrectness or exceptions. Through such systems known as Employee Self Service Systems (ESS), employees can be made aware of any such exception conditions arising in their attendance records by means of automatic alerts being emailed out to them. On receiving such alerts, the employees can themselves take care of their attendance with correction privileges provided to their immediate supervisors. Thus, the productivity of HR department is improved and they can focus more on employee development rather than wasting time and resources in doing manual attendance-keeping in a traditional time-keeping system.
More engaged employees due to ESS lead to less absenteeism, low employee turnover
Using an Employee Self Service System or ESS, an employee takes care of his own attendance and potential payroll problems arising out of incorrect attendance records. Such an employee will be significantly less disgruntled with the management for such issues as he himself will be managing and correcting it. This kind of a self-service culture has been proven to be beneficial in improving employee engagement. A more engaged employee will naturally be less absent and less likely to leave the company leading to enhanced productivity.
Inter-department integration and online payroll data transfer leads to improved efficiency
As depicted in the Figure 2 earlier finance & payroll department and HR department can be integrated online with the time and attendance management system. All of the employee time-keeping related data needs of these two departments can then be met instantaneously with data integration between their respective systems. Such integration of the systems at database level to get the in-time and out-time records of employees was much more efficient than the manual and low-productivity data capture involved in a traditional timekeeping system.
Easier to identify employees for attendance related rewards or penalties
In traditional time-keeping and attendance systems, if one needs to identify the employees with exceptionally high or low attendance then a manual sifting of the logged records in logbooks or registers is required. This tedious and low-productivity activity can be turned into an instantaneous report by storing pre-built queries and reports in an automated fingerprinting based access and time-keeping system.
The companies implementing fingerprint-based access control systems with linked time-keeping systems observed sizeable improvements in employee productivity. Employee productivity benefits coupled with the associated cost benefits has led to this kind of an integrated solution gaining acceptability among an increasing number of companies. With the increasing accuracy of fingerprint scanning devices coupled with their falling prices, this trend is only going to strengthen in the coming days.