Time attendance systems are a useful management tool. Chinese manufacturers are delivering more stable products, embedding other technologies for higher security.
Time attendance systems are a must-have management tool for human resources. Ten years ago, time attendance involved only simple punch machines or individual paper cards. Suffice it to say, the devices were very basic. More advanced technology radio frequency and biometrics are giving time attendance systems much wider applications at the enterprise level.
As quality is a top concern, Chinese manufacturers have had to substantially improve performance. "We served as an OEM partner to big names like Hitachi before entering overseas markets last year," said Zhu Mei, Marketing Director at New Abel. "Our three-year cooperation with Hitachi helped us make our products stable. Hitachi's high standards when it comes to inspection enhanced our R&D capabilities, and this has lead to better product performance."
Working with international companies enabled New Able to learn a lot. Previously, data was often lost during transmission due to factors, such as power failure. In fact, data transmission is a key problem when it comes to calculating employee salaries. "We, therefore, designed a new function to double check whether data is transmitted securely and accurately," said Zhu. "We have our own R&D team and resources for backup and to enable prompt responses."
Others are working with national agencies. IS'vision Technologies became involved in the Chinese National Ministry of Science and Technology's Hi-Tech Research and Development Program of China also known as the 863 program which is dedicated to biometrics.
"In the past eight years, IS'vision Tech has achieved 14 national patents in facial recognition and related fields and 13 software copyrights," said Jeffery Lu, Media Supervisor at IS'vision. "We also have 27 patents pending. The R&D team has invented more than 10 different software and hardware products with facial recognition technologies." Its facial detection and recognition systems are based on a DSP platform, and IS'vision Tech products are used extensively in government and public security agencies as well as financial institutions, the army, educational institutions and any other place where safety is required.
At ZKSoftware, there are approximately 200 R&D experts not only in China — Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen — but also in the U.S. and India. "We have been investing in our R&D talent pool for 11 years," said Dave Zhao, Special Assistant to the Global Marketing Manager at ZKSoftware. "R&D capabilities have become part of our value proposition. Last year, we set up a new R&D base in the U.S. and inked a partnership in India. The latter was set up for software design to take advantage of India's software expertise and the better command of English among its work force. The U.S. R&D base will develop suitable products for the U.S. market."
Even though RFID cannot prevent buddy punching and it is not appropriate for high-security functions, it remains highly affordable. According to Liu Quan, CEO of Digitalor Security, "Mifare cards are unbreakable; they have a memory capacity of 20 bits, which is sufficient to store fingerprints."
Biometric technologies deliver when it comes to more demanding applications, though recognition accuracy is an issue. "Our software captures 1,024 features of the human face," said Lu. "Unlike fingerprint, similarity of features is a problem with facial recognition. We need to capture many more features to analyze whether they match database templates. Our facial recognition software completes identity verification in less than one second with a false-recognition rate of less than 0.01 percent."
Recognition rate can be adjusted to suit user applications. If a product is deployed in a crucial facility, such as a vault, users can raise recognition matching to 90 percent. For a time attendance device in a typical office, however, 70 percent is usually sufficient.
IS'vision has developed a time attendance system with facial recognition for outdoor and indoor applications. The outdoor version has embedded IR LEDs to enhance picture resolution so that software can analyze more accurately. "With built-in IR LEDs, it enhances stability even in cloudy weather," said Lu. New Abel is also developing facial recognition technology. "We are developing a device with an automatic varifocal lens and automatic updating of the facial database," said Zhu. "As Europeans and Americans are usually taller than Asians, automatic varifocal lenses are more convenient as installation height does not factor into the equation. We are also developing a template with a self-updating function in case users change their hairstyle."
Fingerprint recognition is also being embedded into time attendance readers. According to ZKSoftware, the following criteria are necessary to ensure stable fingerprint recognition: false-rejection rate of less than 0.1 percent, false-acceptance rate of less than 0.001 percent and optical sensor resolution up to 500 dpi. "We have implemented several measures to develop stable fingerprint recognition," said Zhao. "In the front-end component, we have installed a glass pad that was originally used in aerospace. After optical sensors capture fingerprints, our advanced algorithm quickly classifies them into four groups to shorten recognition time."
The ZKSoftware iClock series features multimedia identification terminals, which are based on the most advanced fingerprint algorithms . With eight-inch TFT color display screens, they combine individual graphic user interfaces and high-resolution user photos. Moreover, users can install their own multimedia introductory files into terminals. The series also supports GPRS and Wi-Fi transmission as well as an embedded Web server.
New Abel is embedding a fingerprint algorithm from a North Korean company into its time attendance terminals. "We are using the algorithm because of its stability," said Zhu, "even though it is not the most advanced in the world."
Zhao's company is partnering with a U.S. company to solve problems with fake fingerprints and skin changes. "We are working with an advanced fingerprint sensor that uses revolutionary multispectral imaging technology to collect information from below the surface of the skin," said Zhao. "This advanced product should be ready for the market this year; it will make the fingerprint algorithm more secure."
Software, which plays a crucial role in efficient management, enables functions, such as automatic salary calculation, personnel data maintenance, schedule arrangement and data analysis. "Our software can be combined with enterprise resource planning (ERP) to leverage efficiency," said Lu.
"In 2004, we have launched software with Internet connectivity," said Zhu. "Top management can sign employee leave requests even when executives are out of the office."
"Approximately 45 million end users are using our basic software," said Zhao. "Driven by new labor policies in China, we have designed software for time attendance systems, integrating human resource management, time and attendance, and wage calculation."
Integrating access control and time attendance systems is a must. "Our global time attendance system is based on flexible, open, secure technology," said Liu. "It features multiple services, removing distance restrictions; it is also a good platform for integrating remote management security and other relevant information systems."
Liu pointed out that global time attendance systems enable large enterprises to connect and manage time and attendance and access control at many sites. Maximum personnel capacity is up to 1 million. "A Chinese government ministry is using our product to manage its offices all over China."