Time and Attendance Tracking

If a company has a vested interest in ensuring that staff are carrying out specific tasks at certain places, it is likely that they will have been using some form of time & attendance tool or process to track attendance for some time.

But just how confident can any company be that they are in fact proving attendance, in the truest sense of the word?  Bearing in mind that this proof could potentially sway the outcome of a multi-million pound insurance claim, or even a prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter Act, it is probably a question that should be given very serious consideration.

Although traditionally attendance and activity tracking may have been performed by filling out bits of paper after the event, it is unlikely that any insurance company, regulator or customer would now accept this as any form of bona fide evidence or proof.

Since the advent of electronic media and devices to perform such tasks, there are also too many productivity and reliability benefits to be gained from using electronic means to ignore them.

Such systems include...

RFID tagging

RFID tags have been around for a number of years, and there is a flourishing industry around their manufacture and provision for all manner of tasks and extreme environments. 

Each and every RFID tags that is produced has a unique alphanumeric identifier that cannot be replicated.  Electronics manufacturers soon worked out that the uniqueness of every tag manufactured offered an opportunity to associate the placement of an RFID tag with a location or place name.  In other words, if you could prove a transaction or “swipe” between an RFID tag and an electronic device, then you can basically prove that the device has been next to that unique tag.  If it can also be proven that the tag is or was located in a certain position, then potentially you also have proof of attendance.

But commonly, the recording of the proximity of the device next to the tag was stored on the device itself.  If there is no way of proving who was holding the device at the time, then not only is it difficult to prove the attendance of an individual at the location, but it is completely impossible to prove anything in real-time. 

Moreover, as most device based solutions require the data to be downloaded to a locally based server or spreadsheet, the data could be tampered with.  This leaves the whole question of whether anything at all can be proven up for serious debate.

Near Field Communications

NFC, the new technology on the block, was really invented by the mobile industry as a precursor to enabling payments to be made by swiping a mobile phone over an RFID reader or terminal.  If you have used an Oyster card on the London Underground rail network, then you have used NFC.

All NFC effectively does is enable a mobile phone to read an RFID tag.  So although it may be intended as a means of payment, its invention has inadvertently offered the mobile industry an opportunity to use the uniqueness of an RFID tag for proof of attendance purposes.  Because simply speaking, adding the real-time connectivity of a mobile network or GPRS connection means that transactions can be transmitted instantly, but more importantly the development of “cloud” based solutions means that the data can be stored centrally, in a secure location where nobody can tamper with it.  In essence, at long last we have genuine proof of attendance.

Global Positioning Service

Although in theory GPS should be able to be used to “prove” that someone holding a GPS enabled device has visited a certain place or location, the inaccuracy of the technology (within x metres) means that proving, in the true sense of the word, anyone’s attendance at a site would probably not be possible from a legal perspective.

It would also make it impossible to prove attendance at multiple positions within sites or buildings, such as fire exits, doors, windows etc.

In reality, GPS will probably add some useful extra mapping and location based services when used in conjunction with an NFC and RFID tag solution.

Fixed Line Telephone Call-logging Systems

In the domiciliary care sector, attendance has often been tracked by requiring a carer to pick up a fixed line telephone within the home of the client, and to make a call to a central call logging system.  The identity of the carer is established by their entering a unique code with the call.

However there are a number of drawbacks with such a solution, the main one being the fact that the call never terminates at a destination means that nobody ends up paying for the cost of carrying the call.  Although this is a benefit for care companies, OFCOM have deemed it unfair to call carriers and therefore the use of such systems will soon be outlawed.

Moreover, it relies on the client having a landline telephone (or the care company providing one at its own expense), and offers no additional capability for messaging, report or form filling, or the taking of photographs.

Proving Attendance?

Which begs the obvious question, how can attendance genuinely be proven or tracked?

  • Older RFID systems with storage devices can clearly be “intervened” with, if the data is just being dumped into a an excel spreadsheet or behind a provider’s firewall;
  • GPS is inaccurate as buildings etc can interfere with satellite visibility;
  • Fixed line call systems get closer, but have no value add.

In Conclusion

It would appear then that a mobile phone based NFC solution using unique RFID tags, in conjunction with a cloud-based, secure, tamper-proof remote environment such as Microsoft SQL Azure (see our downloads section for a whitepaper about this service), is about as close as anyone can get to proving beyond reasonable doubt that a named individual has been to a specific place at a certain time. MoCo Touch is that solution.

Would you trust your corporate liability insurance policy, or even your personal liberty if the Corporate Manslaughter Act came into play, to anything else?

How Much?

Near Field Communication

Buy Touch for as little as 65p per day, per device licence.  With unlimited end-user access, no setup charges and no maintenance charges... this is all inclusive.

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Case Study

Cobra Security kicks out the "Pipe" for Touch and saves 14 hours per week, or over £10k per annum, in driver, fuel and administration costs aloneLearn more