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High-Tech Palm Scans at Pinellas Schools

Innovative palm reader is first in nation to identify students in the lunch line by scanning hand prints.

A new palm reader for Pinellas County middle and high schoolers cannot predict the future. But this high-tech scanning system will make the lunch line move faster.

Pinellas County Schools are the first in the nation to use a palm scanning system, which is manufactured by Fujitsu.

The new palm-scanning program, piloted at Boca Ciega High School, cost the district $105,000. It replaces a finger scan system used in county middle and high schools since 2005.

The school system plans to roll out the optional program in the elementary schools in October. Currently the elementary schools identify children in the lunch lines by their pictures.

The palm scan system connects with the district's lunchroom software. Gone is the need for a lunch card or ID number to pay for meals. The scanner photographs and stores each person’s unique palm vein.

Known as the PalmSecure biometric sensor, the scanner is made by Fujitsu. It uses a near-infrared light scan to capture and store a student’s palm vein pattern, "generating a unique biometric template,” according to Fujitsu’s website.

School officials say the high-tech system is completely safe. Pinellas County Schools are the first public schools in the nation to incorporate the palm scanner system into their lunchroom payment systems. Other school districts around the country are currently piloting the system, said Bill Geary, Fujitsu Biometrics Sales Manager for Retail and Education.

The palm scan system stores a template of the child's palm vein, which is encrypted, Geary said.

For hygiene purposes, hand sanitizer is next to the scanners if children wish to use it. Just the outer perimeter of a child's hand touches the hand guide. The child's hand does not touch the sensor.

Parents do not need to worry about a breach of privacy with this unusual method for identifying students. The scans are only used in the lunch program. No other computer server uses the palm scans.

The lunch line moves faster with the new technology.

“We examined several biometric systems during our review process and it was evident during our pilot phase that the Fujitsu PalmSecure solution, paired with (software), best met our qualifying criteria,” according to Pinellas Food Service Department Director Art Dunham on the Fujitsu website.

The new palm scan system is optional. Paying with cash and looking up a student’s name can still be done.

Parents can refill and check lunch card balances online. Parents put money into the account,which is just for buying lunch. It works similar to Sun Pass automobile toll accounts where users put money in a dedicated account and replenish it as needed.

For more information go to https://www.schoolpaymentsolutions.com

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