Pilot Program Uses Palm Print Technology to Speed Up Lunch Line

A little bit of Futurism right out of a James Bond movie has come to the Hawthorne School District lunch line, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The goal is to increase the number of people who can go through the lunch line at the same time to bring down the number of students who don’t have time to grab their lunch between classes.

The setup looks like any other pay point in a classroom cafeteria with a small but crucial difference. When it comes time to pay, students put their hands on the palm-shaped scanner which the manufacturer Harris School Solutions then scans for vein pattern below the skin to match and bring up student records in the school’s system. On the screen, cashier will see the photo of the student, the balance of their lunch account and even if there are any food allergies to be aware of.

The devices – currently used only by eighth-graders at Hawthorne Middle and fifth-graders at Ramona – have given some people the heebie-jeebies. A handful of parents have exempted their children from using them, and one precocious pupil at Hawthorne Middle School refuses to scan his hand because he considers it too “Big Brother. ”

Apoian assures that there is no nefarious information-gathering scheme at play. She takes pains to note that the technology does not store any images of the palm. Rather, it simply connects to a five-digit ID number that students for years have been punching in on their own, thereby calling up all of the same information.

The ultimate goal is time. The lines in the cafeterias get so long occasionally that kids don’t have time to both pick up their lunch and eat it before they have to run off to the next class.

Lunch workers are hoping that the scanners could add precious seconds which – when added up – give students more flexibility and won’t force them to stand in line only to either gobble up their meal or go hungry for the rest of the day.

Currently the machine is only in place at Hawthorne Middle School and Ramona Elementary. The purpose of putting a device in Ramona is to find out how good the technology is at reading smaller palms.

So far, Apoian isn’t sold by the palm scanners. But her complaints are technical, not philosophical. After all, her staff uses facial recognition software at the time clocks to eliminate the possibility that one employee can punch in for another and to streamline accounting procedures. The system works like a charm, she says. But with the palm scanner, the line has been held up too many times because the scanner wasn’t recognizing a hand, compelling students to re-register on the spot, she said. And too many times the hardware has crashed.

“The keypads are faster at this point,” she said. “We just want people to know we are trying everything we can.”
Still, she plans to give the new technology a fair trial during the remaining couple of weeks of the pilot period.