Fingerprint scanner debuts at Virginia Tech dining hall

The optional biometrics program allows students to keep their ID cards in their pockets as they wave their way into the building.
finger scanner

Students who headed back Virginia Tech this week encountered a new piece of technology when they stepped into the dining hall for a bite to eat — fingerprint scanners.

The biometric student identification system, which was installed at the university’s D2 dining hall over the summer, facilitates faster access into the building, eliminating the need for students to remove ID cards from their pockets or wallets, according to Virginia Tech’s FAQ page.

The new system, from the biometric technology company Idemia, works by linking a student’s fingerprint biometrics to their student accounts, deducting from their meal plan as they wave a hand over the scanner to enter the dining hall.

According to the university, the device does not map fingerprints. Instead, it identifies several points on a user’s fingers, turns them into an encrypted algorithm, and generates a unique string of numbers — much like an ID number — to identify students.


To enter the D2 dining hall, students simply must wave their hand through the scanner and do not need to touch a screen or device in order to prevent cross-contact and the spread of bacteria.

With Virginia Tech expecting a record number of incoming freshman this year, this new technology serves as a way to create an express lane for students entering the dining hall.

The program, however, is entirely voluntary. Students aged 18 years and older can enroll in the biometrics program by visiting the Hokie Passport Services office and may opt-out at any time.

According to the university, all data stored in the system will be held in a manner compliant with The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, and will not be used for any purpose other than to give students convenient access to establishments that participate in the biometrics program. The school also says data will only be stored while a student is actively enrolled at Virginia Tech or until he or she elects to disenroll from the program.

Betsy Foresman

Written by Betsy Foresman

Betsy Foresman was an education reporter for EdScoop from 2018 through early 2021, where she wrote about the virtues and challenges of innovative technology solutions used in higher education and K-12 spaces. Foresman also covered local government IT for StateScoop, on occasion. Foresman graduated from Texas Christian University in 2018 — go Frogs! — with a BA in journalism and psychology. During her senior year, she worked as an intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and moved back to the capital after completing her degree because, like Shrek, she feels most at home in the swamp. Foresman previously worked at Scoop News Group as an editorial fellow.

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