I’d like to pay with DNA, please

I have a lot to say about school lunches; more than would fit in this space, and probably more than you want to know, anyway. But one of my complaints about the cafeteria lunch at my kids’ school is that the lunch period is so short, it’s virtually impossible for the kids who buy to actually eat lunch once they’ve purchased it. They spend the entire period in line, and by the time they’re seated with food, the bell rings.

(There’s a comment to be made here about how this is perhaps the most merciful thing that could happen when faced with a tray of school food, but just look how I restrain myself. Sort of.)

Yesterday I read this news article about finger scanners being implemented in school cafeterias in Rome, Georgia.

“The finger’s better because all you’ve got to do is put your finger in, and you don’t have to do the number and get mixed up,” said Adrianna Harris, a second grader at Anna K. Davie Elementary School.

Okay. That sounds about right. I consider it a successful day if my kids return from school with everything they took to it in the morning, though that hardly ever happens. If they had to remember some sort of PIN to pay for food? They would be hungry children, indeed.

The new system speeds lunch lines, said city administrators. It’s being phased in to Rome High School, Rome Middle School and all the city’s elementary schools. The city hopes to have the system in use next month system-wide.

Ah, here’s where my interest is piqued. Anyone else wondering how much faster this makes the lunch lines? I mean, I’m all for speeding things up so that the poor kids can actually eat their lunches. I guess what I’m wondering is if the scanners are really on par with every cheesy sci-fi movie I’ve ever seen, and the kids simply press a finger and woosh! there’s a friendly beep and it’s on to the next kid. Or is it—as I suspect, because I’m cynical—more like, a child presses his finger, the machine gives an error, he presses again, the machine gives an error, some surly lunch lady scrubs the screen with her apron, he tries again, etc. I’d love to see some actual stats on the time improvement, is what I’m saying.

But here’s the part that has me really confused:

Some parents are uneasy with having their children’s fingerprints scanned, and wonder about how well the information is secured.

Um. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the information isn’t being kept secure. (I’m sure that it is, but play along with “worst case scenario” with me, won’t you?) The information is… available, somehow. What exactly do these parents think someone is going to be able to do with a scan of their children’s fingerprints? Are they worried about identity theft of their 6-year-olds? Someone cloning the kids’ fingertips and emptying their lunch accounts with their unrelenting chocolate milk habit? Teachers IDing pranksters via prints? What, exactly?

Well, regardless, I say this is a great step ahead in technology. Sure, there’s cancer and famine and war out there, but at least kids can pay for their lunches with fingerprints.

[image courtesy of Digital Persona]

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