Fingerprint and Facial Recognition: How Biometrics Is Advancing the Construction Industry

Published May 3, 2017 by Whirlwind Team

biometrics construction industry


Construction sites are big places with lots of access points and valuable assets. Also, they are not safe for those unfamiliar with the dangers. Securing such an area is difficult. Recent developments in biometrics may hold the answer to the problem of security and safety plus other issues that have dogged the industry for ages.

Proximity tags and swipe cards haven’t made things any easier. Cards are expensive to make and maintain. When you have hundreds or thousands of people swarming a site, many of whom change daily, buddy swiping and card sharing can seem endemic. Cards for hourly workers don’t necessarily track whether the worker was present the whole time.

Biometrics is a technology that cannot be faked or forged, no matter what you have seen in the movies. It offers accurate payroll and attendance as well as tighter security without the need for additional personnel.

Biometrics explained

Biometrics is an automated method of human recognition based on a behavioral or physiological characteristic. Biometrics can recognize people through:

  • Facial recognition by using photos
  • Fingerprints on a reader
  • Finger veins
  • Palm veins
  • Iris patterns in the eye
  • Voice recognition

Not only does biometric scanning make it easier to make sure authorized personnel are permitted inside the fence, it can help to secure smaller areas when someone is only permitted partial access to a site. Also, it can provide data about the boundaries of your site and the land usage.

The benefits of biometrics for construction industry

  • Eliminating the potential for buddy swiping and tag trading means your payroll will be more accurate and employee time theft will decrease significantly and reduce your labor costs
  • Biometric scan data creates a full audit trail for health and safety compliance
  • No more paper time sheets that can be lost
  • Reduced administrative time for completing the payroll run
  • You have full visibility into where your key skilled workers are
  • Supply chain data is recorded for future analysis and improvement

Implementing biometrics

  • Fingerprint reader. One of the most common biometric devices is a fingerprint reader. Early readers were inaccurate when presented with dirt, grease, and grime on workers’ hands but newer readers have the capability to read almost any fingerprint, no matter how much dirt is present.

Fingerprint readers can be connected to onsite computers or mobile devices. When you make a hire, you pre-register each worker’s fingerprint and complete the required documentation. After that, the worker just needs to place a finger on the reader to gain access to the site.

A fingerprint reader eliminates the need for a security guard or other presence at each access point to read badges, match up workers with the records, and manually maintain a list of comings and goings. Matching is nearly instantaneous.

  • Facial recognition. Some industries and unions have objected to fingerprint or other types of biometric information being scanned or stored but have accepted facial recognition technology as an adequate substitute.

A photo of a worker’s face is snapped each time he clocks in or out. It can be done at a station with a camera or a smartphone camera can take a picture, attach a time and date stamp, and send it to payroll and security via a web based application.

It takes less time than presenting a photo ID to a security guard who must then write or type information from the card and match it to the person carrying it. Facial recognition can be carried out without manual registration and there are no problems created by dirty hands, wet weather, or lack of electricity.

  • Hand geometry is popular in the UK. Verification is made through the shape and size of a person’s hand instead of reading fingerprints or palm prints. Smudges and dirty hands don’t matter either. Photography can be disrupted by light interference, another plus on the side of hand geometry, which isn’t bothered by it.

Biometrics aids compliance with access requirements

Construction sites must follow access requirements for more than payroll reasons. Public safety is paramount.

Biometrics aids in keeping kids and others out of a dangerous area, reducing the risk for accidents, damage, and theft. Child endangerment continues to be a problem with young people being killed or injured after getting into the construction site through stealth.

Worker safety is increased by the ease of creating restricted areas within the site to limit those entering and to keep away anyone who could be hurt by the work performed in the area. Site access can be granted, rescinded, and changed easily through the associated software.

To address any concerns about privacy, fingerprint scanners do not generally store a raw image of your fingerprint. A digital representation of specific characteristics of the fingerprint is the only data stored by the application.

Workers can be assured, also, that these scanners are not germ factories. The portable restroom door handle is touched more frequently. However, if it is still a concern, there are other recognition biometrics, such as iris scans and facial recognition that do not require employees to touch anything.

Equipment requirements

Equipment requirements depend on the type of biometrics you select for your site. For fingerprint or palm print recognition, each entry or access point will need a reader. More companies that provide biometrics are starting to offer scanners that can withstand the rugged environment of a construction site.

Facial recognition may be easier to implement. You can go with a camera at each access point but if you are allowing employees to clock in and out on their smartphone, you can save the need to purchase equipment. The worker can take a selfie using the forward facing camera on their phone as they are clocking in. The photo is sent to a cloud-based application that matches the photo with the correct worker in the database.

Some fingerprint recognition applications are available for smartphones as well.

Biometrics show promise for security and savings in the construction industry. Not only will you save on payroll from the elimination of buddy swiping and other employee time theft, you will need fewer security staff to operate the access points.

The technology is already used widely in forensics, healthcare, and immigration. It’s pretty hard to forget a body part, lose it, or otherwise show up to work without it.  Knowing who is entering your site and having an accurate payroll recording provides peace of mind for the budget and workplace safety. Whether you use fingerprints, photos, or iris scans, there are systems available to fit your needs.

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