Finger vein scanner pilot program launches at Montgomery County rec centers
Centers in Potomac, Olney and Wheaton are testing scanners
The new year dawned a new era for the Montgomery County Recreation Department as three centers began using biometric finger vein scanners to access customer accounts.
The department is moving toward replacing plastic access cards with small machines that turn an image of a person's unique finger vein pattern into a code for their account. The project was announced this summer.
The Potomac Community Recreation Center, Olney Swim Center and Holiday Park Senior Center in Wheaton each have a scanner as part of a pilot program that began this month, said Recreation Department spokeswoman Judy Stiles. The facilities were chosen because they are the busiest.
Customers using those facilities have the option to switch to using the scanners, Stiles said. People who are uncomfortable with the technology can continue using their card, or sign in on paper if the card system becomes obsolete in the future.
The scanners are expected to save the county $50,000 annually in the materials cost of cards and printers once the scanners are in place at each of the department's 33 facilities, Stiles said. The scanners cost $355 each.
Emily McDonell, director of the Potomac community center, has seen a mostly favorable response in the first two weeks of the program.
On busy days, her staff has had a line of people waiting to register themselves with the new system. McDonell also has been impressed with how easy it is to register new users.
"It just goes bing bang boom," McDonell said. "It's very easy, very simple."
A few people have felt uncomfortable with scanners, and chosen to keep using their access card, McDonell said.
All information collected by the scanners is saved on a secure server, Recreation IT Specialist Mary Eno said.
The pilot program is expected to last until mid-spring, Stiles said. At that time, the county would determine if they would purchase scanners for all facilities.