VCU's new alternative to swipes? Iris cameras.

VCU's new alternative to swipes? Iris cameras.

Iris cameras offer VCU students faster entrance to Shafer Court

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Hungry Virginia Commonwealth University students will have a speedier – and more futuristic – option for entering Shafer Court Dining Center this fall.

The university on Wednesday installed two iris cameras that will allow meal plan holders to use their eyes instead of having to swipe their IDs to access the dining hall.

"Students won't need their ID to enter the dining center anymore," said Stephen Barr, the director of campus services who oversees VCU Dining Services. "With iris identification, it’s as simple as a camera taking a picture of their eyes and two seconds later they walk through."

With iris identification, it’s as simple as a camera taking a picture of their eyes and two seconds later they walk through.

The new system, which is voluntary, is meant to serve as something of an express lane for students.

"We thought it'd be a nice service for students to help everybody get through at peak times," Barr said.

Plus, he added, the iris cameras will give students who lose their IDs over the weekend the ability to still access their meal plans even though the ID card office is closed.

"There currently isn’t a mechanism for students to get a replacement ID [over the weekend] so they can access Shafer," Barr said. "So how do they eat over the weekend? In the past, they've had to come out of pocket. Now they don't have to. This backup lets them get into Shafer so they can eat.”

Cashiers will remain in place for those who choose not to use the iris cameras, as well as for visitors and others entering Shafer Court.

The iCAM 7100 iris cameras take a high-definition photo of the user's iris and then identify 220-plus unique points. It then generates a number, which is associated with that individual meal plan holder's iris. North Carolina-based ColorID makes the custom solution that includes the iris cameras.

"We don't keep pictures of your iris," Barr said. "It's just a number, just like your ID. Your ID has a unique number that ties it to you."

To sign up interested students, the university will have stations set up at Shafer Court and elsewhere during the first couple weeks of the fall semester.

The iris cameras are an example of how biometric credentials are being increasingly embraced. Many people use their fingerprints to unlock their iPhones, for example. And the Cary Street Gym uses a fingerprint – and soon a handprint – scanner to verify the identity of students and subscribers accessing the gym.

VCU Dining Services chose to go with iris cameras, Barr said, because it is reliable and does not require touching – which is especially important before a meal.

"We're going to continually improve access to Shafer and see if there are other places [on campus] that we can expand this kind of technology to, as well," he said.


Featured image up topSarah Murphy, communications and office specialist for the Department of Business Services, demonstrates the use of the new iris cameras in Shafer Court.


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