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Pros and cons of the Biometric Handscanner

Let’s take a look at the Biometric handscanner and the reason it may or may not be the right terminal for your company.

Often, people mistake the biometric handscanner as being exactly the same as a finger-scanner, except that it scans the whole hand rather than just one finger. This is not the case. It’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges; they’re both in the fruit basket, but they couldn’t be more different. We’ve taken a look at the Biometric handscanner to shine a light on its good points and reveal a few drawbacks you might need to consider before purchasing one for your employees to use.


As far as biometric systems go, the handscanner is probably the most reliable of all the different types on offer. A handscanner will work in just about every environment and is not affected by dirt, moisture or other environmental factors. Instead it relies on measuring the bulk of the hand by taking 3D measurements, such as hand width, hand height, bulk, finger length, finger width and the like. Amazingly we are all different. Inside the handscanner there is a small camera and various mirrors that enable a 3D image to be scanned. The only way the system can fail to recognise someone is if the employee’s hand significantly changes shape between clockings (and we’re talking a swollen hand, or a missing finger, in which case, stop trying to clock out and go to a hospital!). In situations where the hand has changed shape over time (that diet really is working) it is simply a case of re-registering the employee’s new hand shape. Being able to rely on your clocking terminal is key to a good time and attendance system; with a handscanner, you know you’ve got a reliable, robust machine that will work time and time again.

Some employees worry about germs and hygiene when placing their hand on the much-used device. This should not be an issue, however, because the surface on which the hand is placed is made from a special micro-biological material that kills off germs – this is the same material as used in hospital operating theatres. Having said this, regular cleaning of this surface and the various mirrors and glass used by the handscanner is advised because this clearly affects the quality of the 3D image.

Offline Usage

Here is one of those negative points that could easily be a positive point too. The handscanner is an off-line device. Essentially, this means that it stores employee clock numbers and clockings that have been made inside its memory, as opposed to needing to be connected in real-time to the attendance database. What happens then, is that, at predetermined intervals, the clockings are collected by the attendance software – this is called polling. The positive point about this is that the handscanner does not rely on a permanent network connection back to your server, so is unaffected in the event of losing connection or the network going down. The information just sits in the terminal until the connection is re-established and the information can be polled across. The down-side, however, is that the attendance database is only ever as up-to-date as the last time it was polled, which could have been some time ago. When using an on-line terminal there is no terminal memory and so if your network dies, so does your ability to clock employees in and out. In practice, many companies do not see this as a drawback because networks tend to be so reliable these days and there is a desire to always have up-to-date information available.

Fire Register Problem

A definite negative point for the handscanner is that it cannot be used reliably for an automatic fire register. This is for the reason above that the attendance database (on which the fire register relies) may not be fully up-to-date. Typically, a time and attendance system such as Captureit is used to automatically trigger printing off a fire register in the event of the fire alarm going off. (We covered the details of the fire register in a previous article which you can read here.)

A fire register needs to be up-to-date at all times, so that in the event of the fire alarm triggering, you have an accurate and reliable list. If you have to wait for the information on the handscanner to be polled by the system, then you could well end up with an inaccurate list if people have made clockings during the interim. Not good!

There’s Only One, and It Works

There is only one make of handscanner in the UK. That means, no matter who you purchase your handscanner from, you’ll get the same model. As mentioned, the handscanner works very reliably (so reliable that no one has managed to come up with a better version!) and the machine will be immediately familiar to anyone who has used a handscanner in a different company. Whereas the clocking terminal provides the method for employees to make clockings, the important part of any time and attendance system is the software behind it. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to purchase a handscanner with time and attendance software that turned out to be a disappointment, you can easily find a company with a much better time and attendance system on offer (May I suggest - and I'm picking a company completely at random here - Captureit for example!) and you won’t necessarily have to pay to replace the terminal; just the software.

The Biometric handscanner is a tough, reliable terminal that works even in the case of you losing network connectivity.