A Biometric Attendance Terminal and its Application to Health Programs in India

Michael Paik, Navkar Samdaria, Aakar Gupta, Julie Weber, Nupur Bhatnagar, Shelly Batra, Manish Bhardwaj, Bill Thies

ACM Workshop on Networked Systems for Developing Regions |

Tracking attendance is a necessity in a variety of contexts in the developing world, encompassing health programs, schools, government offices, and a litany of other milieux. While electronic attendance tracking systems exist and perform their core function well, they are expensive, monolithic and offer little customizability.

In this paper we describe a fingerprint-based biometric attendance system implemented using off-the-shelf components: a netbook computer, a commodity fingerprint reader, and a low-cost mobile phone. The system identifies visitors based only on their fingerprint, and uploads attendance logs to a central location via SMS. Its functionality goes beyond that of existing market offerings while improving modularity, extensibility, and cost of ownership.

We deployed this system in two health programs – supporting tuberculosis patients in New Delhi and sex workers in Bangalore – and logged over 550 users and 4,500 visits over the course of several months. Our experience suggests that the system is usable in real-world contexts, though incentives are needed to sustain usage over time. We reflect on the sociocultural factors surrounding adoption and describe the potential to impact health outcomes in the future.