Weird tech: Fingerprinting to fend off food fights

Biometric point-of-sale system at Sawtry Community College cafeteria provides visibility into banger consumption

Remember the cafeteria scene in Animal House when Bluto (John Belushi) cuts the line and proceeds to stuff his tray (and mouth) with everything from Jell-O to bananas to mashed potatoes, generally causing mayhem, and even taking a bite of a sandwich and then putting it back?

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Now imagine Bluto having to disable a secure biometric point-of-sale system before running amok in the cafeteria, and you can understand why this scene will not likely be repeated at Sawtry Community College in Cambridgeshire, England.

The college recently installed a cafeteria management solution from Toshiba and Datasym incorporating a fingerprint sign-on and rules engine allowing it to increase throughput and provide more visibility into and control over student consumption during the busy lunch break.

The system replaced an existing smart-card setup that was costly because students kept losing the cards and the readers kept breaking down. The school had also recently gone from two lunch breaks to one, resulting in throughput logjams at the registers.

The new system enables students or their parents to upload money to their accounts before lunch, then sign in with the fingerprint reader before making their food selections. It gives parents a better idea of what their kids are eating (Bluto would not approve), and it can flag food items that students may be allergic to.

Planned enhancements to the system include functionality to give parents the ability to remotely limit what their kids can spend on any given meal, as well as a tracking system to generate detailed inventory reports to improve procurement planning and reduce waste.

As for a map mashup for overlaying the trajectories of items thrown in an Animal House-esque consumables melee, well, that just might have to wait for a Google Food Fight API.

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