Virginia Commonwealth University has installed iris-scanning cameras at the Schafer Court Dining Center, allowing students to access their meal plans with a simple eye scan.
The iris scan system is completely voluntary, writes Kim Bellaware of the Huffington Post, and cashiers will still be available for students who want to swipe their ID card instead. Its main purpose is as an "express lane" to improve flow at the dining hall door and reduce lines so that students won't have to wait as long for service.
Brian McNeill of VCU News quoted Stephen Barr, VCU'S Director of Campus Services:
Students won't need their ID to enter the dining center anymore. With iris identification, it's as simple as a camera taking a picture of their eyes and two seconds later they walk through.
Students who want to enroll in the program can do so at stations on campus, including one at the dining hall, according to Andrew Hudson of CR80 News.
Barr also noted that it would be an added convenience for students who lose their ID's over the weekend because they would be unable to get them replaced until Monday.
Barr said that iris scanning solves a nagging problem:
There currently isn't a mechanism for students to get a replacement ID [over the weekend] so they can access Shafer. So how do they eat over the weekend? In the past, they've had to come out of pocket. Now they don't have to. This backup lets them get into Shafer so they can eat.
The iCAM 7100 iris cameras, made by ColorID, were $3,000 each, reports Jamie Altman of USA Today College. The camera takes a picture of the user's pupil, analyzes it according to 220 points in the picture, and then converts it to a number which acts like a passcode.
Barr also addressed security and data privacy concerns:
We don't keep pictures of your iris. It's just a number, just like your ID. Your ID has a unique number that ties it to you.
Mark Degan, the Manager of Corporate Marketing at ColorID, looks forward to a continued partnership with VCU:
ColorID is extremely excited to launch the Biometric Dining Solution at Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU is a long-standing customer of ColorID's and they've always embraced and encouraged the latest in identification technologies for the university.
VCU Dining Services came to us earlier in the year and wanted to give students a better dining experience on campus. It was then up to VCUCard Operations manager Patti Murdock to implement and install the solution.
Iris scanners were chosen instead of fingerprint scanners because they won't spread germs.
Many students who disagreed with the new installation said so on the college's Facebook page, with one said that it was "creepy and unnecessary" and others arguing that it was a poor use of revenue — to which VCU replied that the Dining Services raises its own revenue and didn't use tuition money for these purchases.
Last year, George Mason installed the same technology, and Georgia Southern University has had it in place 2013. The University of New Hampshire also employs iris scanners.