Many dairy parlors are using a biometric system to authenticate employees’ attendance and as a time clock for punching in and out or entering and exiting work stations. The term biometrics is derived from the Greek word bio (life) and metrics (to measure).

This term covers any type of live measurement from hand scanning, fingerprints, retina scans and facial recognition.

Both hand-scanning biometrics and facial recognition are currently available as viable business tools for dairy farmers. Facial recognition is at the forefront of on-farm biometrics.

Hand-scanning biometrics technology was introduced in 1974 and has evolved into the technology used on many farms today. An employee can clock in for his or her shift by scanning their hand, and this data is transferred into the machine.

This option has high upfront costs and requires continuing maintenance. This machine (the hardware) is often purchased by the farmer outright and needs to be installed, set up and calibrated before use by an employee. Ongoing costs for this technology include monthly fees for use and regular maintenance or repairs.


Should any issues arise with the actual machine, a tech must physically come out to the farm to repair it, usually at the expense of the farmer. Issues with this technology also arise from the actual cleanliness of the machine. Imagine employees, hand after hand, being physically scanned, and the dirt, oils and buildup that occur on the glass of the scanner.

Any dirt or debris could cause the machine to inaccurately read an employee’s hand and cause an error. The physical machine’s glass surface can require regular cleaning and maintenance, depending on employee use.

Some of this technology’s hardware works offline. This means even if there is no internet connection, there will be no disruption in the scanning service. Employees can scan their hands and begin their shift. However, the data will need to be polled (connected to the internet and downloaded), such as at the end of a workday.

This manual connectivity requirement introduces the opportunity for human error. While this biometrics solution has served a great purpose on farms when no other technology was available, today there is a more cost-effective and simpler solution for dairy farmers to utilize.

Facial recognition is the newest form of biometric technology and is being used on farms. Instead of scanning their hand, an employee stops to take a photograph of their face. The technology is then able to distinguish unique facial features that vary from person to person.

Initially, each employee is photographed for the database. As they enter and exit the farm or their work station, a kiosk (such as a tablet or any computer with a digital camera) scans their face and compares it to the face on file. This entire transaction happens in seconds. The data is collected and stored.

Office managers can access the information via the internet to have real-time, up-to-date information as to who is on-site and who is not.

The cost for installation is usually a one-time administration fee and a software subscription to whatever system is chosen. The hardware required is a web camera in a tablet, laptop or computer. Should there be an issue with the system, it can most often be fixed remotely – and usually at no additional cost to the farmer. Software updates can be loaded during downtime, between shifts or during certain hours.

As facial recognition technology evolves, it has become more intuitive and can acknowledges changes in employees. For example, if an employee grows a beard, and his face “changes” from the original image on file, the system will automatically flag the employee’s “new” face for review by the administrator.

Once the image is approved, the system automatically adds it to the employee’s facial recognition file for future reference. Facial recognition technology is powered by large corporations like Amazon and Apple. Apple’s most current iPhone uses similar technology to recognize faces and unlock a user’s phone. There is no minimum employee requirement to use this solution. Compared to hand-scanning technology, facial recognition software is an inexpensive solution for farms.

Transitioning from hand-scan biometrics to a facial recognition solution can seem daunting, but dairies who have made the switch can attest it’s actually an easy one. A minor inconvenience now can make a powerful impact on the accuracy of your time clock management and the human resource management efficiency of your dairy farm operation.  end mark

Lisa Graystone is with myEtimecard, a mobile employee management and job tracking company, based in California.

References omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.