Keeping Kids In School The Smart Way

For institutions with high traffic, such as schools and movie theaters, it can be difficult to keep track of individuals moving in and out, especially without a critical mass of security. For schools especially, keeping track of student attendance and preventing kids from leaving campus in the middle of the day can be a costly problem.

The solution that Tunisian engineers [Michael Djimeli], [Darius Koliou], and [Jinette Tankoua] came up with was to create a smart gate that only turns when checks are carried out by designated security officers. The design is retrofitted to existing school turnstiles in his hometown of Monastir, Tunisia, and uses an RFID card, biometric devices, and a host of access controls to ensure that the student attempting to turn the turnstile is validated first.

The smart gate uses a few methods for identification – either by RFID, fingerprint, facial recognition, or by reading a QR code. An external database stores each user’s data and their transaction history, effectively storing their attendance data. In addition to relaying the information to an administrator, the smart gate also checks the credit of the user — whether they’ve paid the entrance fee for a movie theater, or whether they’re permitted to exit school grounds as a student.

A Raspberry Pi is used as the card collector, relaying information on transaction data over WiFi. Meanwhile local identification information via biometric devices and key fobs are relayed to the processor over Bluetooth. There are also plans to develop a mobile app to track the status of the smart gate remotely.

While the full systems integration isn’t published yet, there are several photos of the control box, which shows the components used for the first smart gate. The mechanical design was successfully tested on the IUC Douala Cameroon university campus (with 35-45 students identified per minute), and the project will hopefully be repeated within more schools in the coming year.

RaspiReader, An Open Source Fingerprint Reader

In 2008, the then German interior minister, [Wolfgang Schäuble] had his fingerprint reproduced by members of the German Chaos Computer Club, or CCC, and published on a piece of plastic film distributed with their magazine. [Schäuble] was a keen proponent of mass gathering of biometric information by the state, and his widely circulated fingerprint lifted from a water glass served as an effective demonstration against the supposed infallibility of biometric information.

Diagram showing the fingerprint reader's operation.
Diagram showing the fingerprint reader’s operation.

It was reported at the time that the plastic [Schäuble] fingerprint could fool the commercial scanners of the day, including those used by the German passport agency, and the episode caused significant embarrassment to the politician. The idea of “spoofing” a fingerprint would completely undermine the plans for biometric data collection that were a significant policy feature for several European governments of the day.

It is interesting then to read a paper from Michigan State University, “RaspiReader: An Open Source Fingerprint Reader Facilitating Spoof Detection” (PDF downloadable from the linked page) by [Joshua J. Engelsma], [Kai Cao], and [Anil K. Jain] investigates the mechanism of an optical fingerprint reader and presents a design using the ever-popular Raspberry Pi that attempts to detect and defeat attempts at spoofing. For the uninitiated is serves as a fascinating primer on FTIR (Frustrated Total Internal Reflection) photography of fingerprints, and describes their technique combining it with a conventional image to detect spoofing. Best of all, the whole thing is open-source, meaning that you too can try building one yourself.

If [Cao] and [Jain] sound familiar, maybe it’s from their Samsung Galaxy fingerprint hack last year, so it’s neat to see them at work on the defense side. If you think that fingerprints make good passwords, you’ve got some background reading to do. If you just can’t get enough fingerprints, read [Al Williams]’ fundamentals of fingerprint scanning piece from earlier this year.

Via Hacker News.

Thor’s Hammer Build Recognizes Its Master’s Hand

electromagnetic-thors-hammerOnly those who have completely insulated themselves from modern pop culture will miss the meaning of a Mjolnir build. It is, of course, the mythical hammer wielded by Thor, and only Thor. It’s a question of being worthy; a question solved perfectly by this electromagnetic Mjolnir build.

Using an electromagnet is smart, right? Just plunk the thing down on something metal (that is itself super-heavy or well-anchored) and nobody will be able to pick it up. It starts to get more interesting when you add a fingerprint reader, allowing only Mjolnir’s Master to retrieve it from atop a manhole cover.

But for us the real genius in the build is that the hammer isn’t burning power from the four 12V batteries most of the time. All of the people in the video below could have picked up the hammer had they first nudged it off the metal plate with their foot. The build uses a capacitive touch-sensor to enable and disable the microwave over transformer used as the electromagnet. An engineering trick like this really separates the gods from the posers.

We hate to admit it, but this is probably a cooler build than the Telsa-Coil powered Mjolin that [Caleb] built a few years back. Still, his held up as the best for many years, and if you’re going to be displaced this really is a build worthy of the new title: coolest Mjolnir hack.

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