Bergen County in New Jersey had a problem. They needed to keep track of how often homeless people received services like food and shelter, but they didn't have a reliable way of identifying them. So they've started scanning their fingerprints.
That problem's trickier than it might seem. Funding for the Department of Human Services relies on getting an accurate count of how many homeless people they serve. But since many don't have identification and others baulk at filling out forms or sitting for interviews, a fingerprint scan is a surefire way to make sure everyone gets counted and no one gets counted twice.
The county paid the San Antonio-based Fulcrum Biometrics $US90,000 to develop the custom system, which coordinates finger scanners at Department of Human Services locations with the data kept by the vaguely creepy-sounding New Jersey Homeless Management Information System. It only takes a few seconds for the scanners to identify an individual and log their visit.
So far the system has scanned some 400 homeless people in the county, and it's already provided some useful insights; the new data shows that the third week in the month is the busiest for food programs, not the last as had been previously thought. Isn't it nice when something like this ends up a lot less nefarious than it sounds? [GovTech]
Image via Franco Folini/Flickr