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Because no one wants to touch a germ-filled screen, the COVID-19 pandemic gets credit for boosting the adoption of touchless time clocks and accelerating the ongoing shift to facial recognition. Now, one HR vendor is combining two touchless time clock biometrics to identify employees, which might illustrate where the technology is headed.
Paychex Inc. introduced an iris scanning time clock about four years ago. Its latest time clock iteration, which it released in March, uses the iris scan and facial recognition to authenticate users. The latest version allows for easier identification of employees who wear masks, goggles, helmets and other work gear, according to the company.
The time clock biometric scans take both iris and facial images independently and then use information from both. Each scan produces a score using a weighted mathematical combination of iris and facial recognition quality for authentication, said Eric Farren, product strategy manager at Paychex.
The iris-only system can recognize employees wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). But the dual iris and facial scans provide more data points to ensure recognition, reducing the chance an employee might have to remove any gear to get scanned, company officials said.
The iris and facial scans "mean that an individual employee does not have to take off any of their PPE equipment," said Tom Hammond, vice president of corporate strategy and product management at Paychex. "They can leave helmets on, face shields, their masks, goggles -- anything that would be essential equipment for different industries."
COVID-19 underscored the need for touchless time clocks, Hammond said.
COVID-19 changed time clock biometrics
"COVID changed the game from a technology perspective, and more and more employees are looking for that hands-free experience," Hammond said. The company, which is based in Rochester, N.Y., said it has about 710,000 clients. The new time clock requires a hardware upgrade, according to the company.
Tom HammondVice president of corporate strategy and product management, Paychex
Paychex's use of two time clock biometrics is not common today but might be in the years ahead, said Mike Jude, an analyst at IDC.
One emerging trend is a "convergence of cybersecurity with physical security," Jude said. "As your physical identification becomes your key into cybersecurity systems, which we think will happen eventually, having multiple biometric markers will probably be a requirement."
COVID-19 is having an effect on time clock technology, Jude said. Before the pandemic, palm print scans were becoming popular, but having to clean a screen after every use made touchless more attractive, he said.
Jude said he believes firms will eventually use multiple biometrics to ensure accuracy. Still, the need for a sophisticated biometric system depends on security requirements of the organization -- for instance, the requirements of the Defense Department, which will have a demanding authentication process, versus a retailer, which may not need multiple biometric scans. The level of security will also depend on the willingness of users to stack biometrics for identity verification, such as an iris scan, retina scan, thumbprint and facial recognition, he said.
The Paychex time clock also doubles as an HR information system for workers, where employees can get information about work schedules, paid time off and other needs.
Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.