Biometrics: The Next Great Workplace Technology

May 20, 2015

By: Tom Loveland, Global SVP of Product Strategy

If you like 007 or Mission Impossible movies like I do, then you’ve seen biometrics at work – at least the Hollywood version of biometrics. Eye scanners, fingerprint readers, and facial-recognition systems are Ethan Hunt’s best friend, helping him ID friend and foe at every turn.

But Hollywood applications don’t apply to your business, right? Or do they?

In recent years, technologies have dramatically evolved, making devices more prevalent and inexpensive to deploy. Today, it’s almost commonplace for businesses to use a variety of electronic scanning devices – especially for security purposes. A short list of these devices includes:

In February 2014, tech research firm Gartner estimated that 30 percent of companies will use biometric authentication on mobile devices used by employees by 2016. I believe that estimate is on the low side.

One innovative use of biometric technology that makes sense for business is that of time and attendance tracking. Traditional paper time sheets and even old-school punch clock time keeping gives way to rounding errors and inefficiencies that can easily cost organizations thousands of dollars. But with biometric time clocks in place, your business can dramatically improve punch in/punch out accuracy and eliminate fraudulent behavior like “buddy punching.”

In addition, you can leverage the benefits of biometric time tracking to avoid potential claims of not properly maintaining accurate records of actual hours worked, including overtime.

Organizations are also discovering ways to enable employees to access secure work environments and even drive company cars using biometric technology.

Imagine company cars requiring facial recognition based authorization before it will start. Now your business knows exactly who was driving the car, where it went (with GPS information) and other details. In the event an employee gets in a car accident, you’ll know who was driving thanks to the biometric record.

With new devices adapted for the workplace, employees can use a fingerprint, iris/retina scan, hand geometry, facial recognition, even voice recognition, to be more productive at work.

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Mobile technology

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A word about biometrics and privacy

If this all seems a little Big Brother-ish, your not alone in your feelings. Attorneys agree, workplace law hasn’t kept up with advance of biometric technologies. In a Society for Human Resource Management article, one lawyer said, “Existing laws and regulations don’t fit neatly with new workplace technology, which includes biometrics. Thus, employers should be proactive about explaining how the technology works and addressing any privacy concerns of employees.”[1]

Keep in mind, however, most established biometric device vendors take every step to ensure employee privacy, and will happily work with you to ensure your employees’ rights are protected.

Bottom line: Chat with your company’s corporate counsel or other legal advisor before deploying biometric technologies.

[1] http://www.shrm.org/legalissues/stateandlocalresources/pages/workplace-biometric-technology-.aspx