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QR Codes in Time and Attendance Applications

QR Codes in Time and Attendance Applications

Nowadays, QR Codes or “Quick Response Codes” are ubiquitous. They can be seen everywhere and in myriads of aesthetic variations. However, they exist for one purpose and one purpose alone: data storage. Among others, QR codes contain (1) website URLs that trigger browsers to go to the encoded web addresses; (2) phone numbers and business cards that automatically get stored in mobile phones; and (3) inventory codes that let business owners track and manage assets.

A QR Code is easy to read. It does not require any specialized equipment to capture its encoded content. It only needs a computer and a web camera. In this regard, any smart phone, laptop, or tablet with a QR Code reader App can be used. Moreover, QR Codes contain more data than the standard UPC barcodes. Further, and most importantly, QR Codes can be read faster than traditional encoded badges.

It is one thing to read, but quite another to generate. No worries! QR Code generator services are provided free online. And they do the job fairly well. Some have options that will automatically let you interface with: (1) Website URL; (2) YouTube Video; (3) Google Maps Location; (4) Twitter; (5) Facebook;(6) LinkedIn; (6) Instagram; (7) FourSquare; (8) App Store Download; (9) iTunes Link; (10) Dropbox; (11) Plain Text; (12) Telephone Number; (13) Skype Call; (14) SMS Message; (15) Email Address; (16) Email Message; (17) Contact Details; (18) Digital Business Card Event (VCALENDAR); (19) Wifi Login (Android Only); and, (20) Paypal Buy Now Link.

Among others, here are some links to QR Code Generator websites:

But if like me, you develop custom applications, there are free APIs for your projects. Among others, here are some QR Code APIs available online:

In a sense, QR Codes have facilitated ‘real world computing’ by providing a physical connection between our real and digital selves.

History

“The QR code system was invented in 1994 by Denso Wave. Its purpose was to track vehicles during manufacture; it was designed to allow high-speed component scanning. Although initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, QR codes now are used in a much broader context, including both commercial tracking applications and convenience-oriented applications aimed at mobile-phone users (termed mobile tagging). QR codes may be used to display text to the user, to add a vCard contact to the user’s device, to open a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), or to compose an e-mail or text message. Users can generate and print their own QR codes for others to scan and use by visiting one of several paid and free QR code generating sites or apps. The technology has since become one of the most-used types of two-dimensional barcode.”

– Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_code

 

QR Codes in Time and Attendance Applications

Although the QR Code was initially intended for the car manufacturing industry, it has branched-out into popular culture through advertising, consumer electronics, and web interfacing. If that’s the case, it may also be used in productivity systems such as Time and Attendance Applications.

For the uninitiated, “Time and Attendance,” is a component of a Human Resources Management System (HRMS) record when employees start and stop work. Moreover, it also records the site where the work is performed. However, it is also not uncommon to track meals and breaks, the type of work performed, and the number of items produced.

“A time and attendance system provides many benefits to organizations. It enables an employer to have full control of all employees working hours. It helps control labor costs by reducing over-payments, which are often caused by transcription error, interpretation error and intentional error. Manual processes are also eliminated as well as the staff needed to maintain them. It is often difficult to comply with labor regulation, but a time and attendance system is invaluable for ensuring compliance with labor regulations regarding proof of attendance.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_and_attendance

Employee time and attendance can be monitored and recorded either manually or by an automated system.

“Automated time and attendance systems can use electronic tags, barcode badges, magnetic stripe cards, biometrics (hand, fingerprint, or facial), and touch screens in place of paper cards which employees touch or swipe to identify themselves and record their working hours as they enter or leave the work area. The recorded information is then ideally automatically transferred to a computer for processing although some systems require an operator to physically transfer data from the clocking point to the computer using a portable memory device. The computer may then be employed to perform all the necessary calculations to generate employee timesheets which are used to calculate the employees’ wages. An automated system reduces the risk of errors that are common in a manual system, and allows the workforce to be more productive instead of wasting time on tedious administrative tasks. [emphasis supplied]

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_and_attendance#Automated_systems

In an automated system, machine readable code is attached to the Identification Cards (IDs). This enables the machine to (1) perform badge scan; (2) read and acquire employee data; (3) verify ID encoded data against data stored in the server; and (4) on confirmation of identity, get system time and store. However, physical verification is still a key consideration in any automated time and attendance system because people will almost always try to beat it. Most organizations steer clear away ffrom any automation due to this. Others, have gone to extreme measures to ensure physical attendance by physically putting the time and attendance devices where HR people can visually verify the clocking-in and out of employees. After all, time and attendance is directly proportional to commensurate compensation.

This is where QR Codes come in. Because of the (1) speed of recognition; (2) type and quantity of content that can be stored in them; (3) and ease of badge generation, they are suitable replacements to electronic tags, and barcode badges. In this regard, the QR Code can be supplemented with either a (a) Personal Identification Number (PIN), or (b) biometric verification.  Both instances are viable solutions but both are not fool proof. In option (a) an employee can always ask a buddy to carry his ID and key-in his PIN. In option (b), biometric readers are notoriously unreliable. Employees may use this as an excuse for non verification and use this as a justification for tardiness.

QR Codes and Digital Cameras in Visual Verification

While QR Codes provide a fast and effective way of storing and retrieving Identification Card data, it is in no way a fool proof solution against attendance fraud. But pictures are. As stated previously, QR Codes can be read by web and cellular phone cameras. If so, why not use the same camera to capture employee photos during the ID scanning process?

No other hardware is needed. Everything will be done through software. Moreover, no additional HR personnel is needed on site as employees clock-in and out because visual confirmation is guaranteed by (1) the digital image of the employee stored in the server and its accompanying timestamp; and (2) image metadata stored in the digital file. Thus, confirming the authenticity of the digital image vs the actual time stamp.

The QR Code and Digital Camera option provides a one-two punch solution to the Time and Attendance Automation, physical verification, and its cost factor.

What to Store in the QR Code

The QR Code may contain anything. It is a veritable storage device on paper. However, the QR Code must not contain everything about an employee. Doing so may compromise an employee’s privacy and security. In this regard, the QR Code must only contain (1) employee information that is necessary to match the QR Code badge and what’s printed on the ID card. Moreover, it must be (2) delimited or “separated by a distinct ASCII character.” This will help the time and attendance App to discern between pieces of information. Finally, a (3) unique employee numerical identifier must be placed somewhere, preferably on the first line, in the QR Code data. This assures QR Code read accuracy.

DES or RSA encrypted data can also be stored in the QR Code. This merits further exploration.

Final Thoughts

Technology is ephemeral. It changes at a blink of an eye, sometimes even faster. Technology is applied science and is the culmination a great many minds. Technology exists to aid man in his or her daily toils. In this regard, man, to progress and excel, must maximize the collective and resultant intelligences that technology provides.

QR Codes, smart phones, tablets, as well as mature telecommunication systems exist for man’s use.

QR Codes has been around since the 90s. However, aside from the automotive industry, it has yet to gain acceptance in the office environment especially in the Human Resources department. Unfortunately, despite its viability to replace the magnetic stripe, barcode, and RFID, it is not used.

It can be seen as a reason to lose trust in the it. But it can also be regarded as an opportunity.

Remember, new paths are not paved on old roads. New paths are struck from the unexplored and the unknown. Maybe, tQR Codes and Digital Cameras in Time and Attendance Applications are such paths.

 

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