Scots tots buy school dinners with veins

Palm pilot
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

Palm pilot

Children at a primary school in Scotland now have a new way to pay for their school dinners - vein recognition.

Kids at Todholm Primary School are guinea pigs for a biometric payment system being developed by Fujitsu and Yarg Biometrics, called PalmSecure, which registers a vein imprint of children's hands as a unique identifier. The school will be the first organisation in Europe to trial the system.

Once their palm veins are on file, kids can pay for their dinners without carrying cash around. Instead, their palms are used to access their meal account with payments deducted accordingly.

According to head teacher Sandra Gibson, the system has gone down well with the children and older students have been teaching younger ones how to use it. "The children just love it," she said.

Gibson said the system has removed the stigma from having free school meals, as the payment method is the same for those who pay for their own meals and those who have meals subsided by the government.

The system can also help school staff to prevent allergic reactions - food allergies are displayed on each child's individual payment page - and has the potential to enable parents to monitor their kids' food choices in the future.

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Losing lunch money is also effectively a thing of the past with this system, said Gibson. Of the 170 children at the school, around 160 have returned their parental consent forms, allowing them to be part of the trial.

She said: "There are one or two parents who haven't returned the consent form and we're trying to find out why... I spoke to one parent [who had concerns about the system] and I felt I allayed her fears."

In the future, parents may also be able to top up their kids' credit using PayPal or online Visa payment. The school is also considering potential new uses for the biometrics technology, including access control systems and replacing kids' library cards. Gibson told silicon.com: "Each will have to be judged on its merits. I do think that 10 years down the line we'll think 'how did we live without it?'."

Other UK schools have also trialled biometric systems. A secondary school in Berkshire is testing a system to keep tabs on truants using fingerprints. An Irish college used a similar system, which alerted parents by text if their child was thought to be bunking off.

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