Facial recognition in schools: the latest software driving school lunchtimes

There’s a new type of software powering contactless transactions: facial recognition

Over the past year schools across the UK have implemented contactless technology to deliver hot school lunches safely and efficiently. But now, as schools return to normal operations, there’s a new type of software powering contactless transactions: facial recognition.

Pre-order, cashless payments and contactless are just some of the buzzwords we’ve heard over the past year, especially regarding school payments and the safe delivery of nutritious school meals.

Now more than ever, schools are looking to technology for contactless solutions that increase efficiencies. After the popularity of innovations such as pre-order lunch apps and online payment solutions, there’s a brand-new innovation powering school meal transactions: Facial recognition.

Bringing facial recognition technology into schools

In 2021, CRB Cunninghams, cashless catering, online payment, and identity management solutions provider to education establishments, launched facial recognition software to UK secondary schools. This launch made CRB Cunninghams the first fully integrated edtech provider to introduce facial recognition for contactless meal payments to UK schools, changing the landscape of school meal transactions.

This software is designed as a contactless biometric method to enable pupils to pay for school lunches without the need for physical contact, providing a fully touch-free meal collection method.

Facial recognition technology in schools works similarly to its use in society, such as for mobile phones and retail settings. To use facial recognition, pupils select their meal, look at the camera and go, eliminating any contact at the point of sale. The intuitive technology enables the school’s PoS operators to quickly identify the pupil’s cashless account and instantly adjust payments in the same way as all other identification methods in CRB Cunningham’s Fusion cashless catering software.

Covid-19 and the demand for innovations

When Covid-19 hit and forced school closures, the need for new technological advancements, especially for school lunch ordering and delivery, was crucial. In 2020, CRB Cunninghams conducted a survey asking students, guardians, and school staff if they would benefit from contactless software for school meal ordering, particularly pre-order software.

Over half of the survey participants, including parents and guardians, said that their school would benefit from Fusion Online, CRB Cunninghams’ pre-order app for school meal orders, highlighting the demand for contactless solutions.

Based on the success of pre-ordering solutions for school lunchtimes, facial recognition is the next step for contactless school lunches, going one step further and eliminating physical contact from the point of sale.

Why schools are using facial recognition

Kingsmeadow Community School in Gateshead was one of the first schools in the UK to introduce facial recognition to school mealtimes. Having utilised fingerprint technology for two years prior, Kingsmeadow switched to facial recognition due to Covid-19 and the need for a more advanced contactless system.

I thought I was pretty cool with fingerprint recognition, but along came Covid and blew that out of the water. I was looking for something else, and then facial recognition came along! Covid didn’t fall perfectly, but facial recognition did! – Maxine Webb, business manager at Kingsmeadow School

When discussing the response from pupils, Maxine said:

Honestly, it’s just worked perfectly from day one. The things we were fearful of, such as children, staff, or visitors who wore glasses, would that be an issue? Would identical twins be an issue? Not at all. I can’t believe it, but I’ve had no complaints from pupils, parents, or staff.

Another school to reap the benefits of facial recognition is Canon Slade School in Bolton and was recently featured in the local news as the first school in the northwest to bring facial recognition technology to its pupils. Canon Slade implemented CRB Cunninghams’ facial recognition software as an extra measure to keep pupils safe from allergens and to keep the school COVID secure by removing physical contact at the point of sale in the canteen.

Natasha’s Law will also affect schools, and this technology allows the school to check what food students have bought, and if there is anything they could be allergic to, it can be flagged up immediately. It is also a truly contactless system as there is no keypad, just facial scanning – Karen Sudworth, headteacher at Canon Slade School

The future of contactless technology in schools

At the beginning of 2021, Footprint Intelligence, environmental, social, governance and sustainability experts in the food and drinks industry produced a report titled Sustainable Success in the New Normal: Conquering Challenges in Education Catering. The actionable report featured research on caterers, suppliers, and local authorities on overcoming challenges in education catering post-Covid-19 and included insights on how education professionals can be open-minded to innovative solutions.

This advice included embracing new technology to offer a more adaptable approach to school lunchtimes, especially in response to the pandemic:

  • 46% of respondents said the pandemic had enabled them to fast-track technology
  • 41% said pre-ordering systems reduce food waste and increase efficiencies
  • 33% said pre-ordering reduces queues and wait times

Download the full report for more information on adapting to innovations in education catering.

The future of contactless technology in schools looks bright. These findings showcase the willingness of those in the education industry to adapt to innovations and the latest technology to enhance their lunch service. Based on the overwhelming feedback from schools that were early to implement the software, it is only a matter of time before facial recognition becomes a crucial part of the school lunch experience.

Next steps for facial recognition

To see first-hand how facial recognition works and how schools benefit from this contactless solution, sign up to CRB Cunninghams’ webinar for an in-depth look into all things facial recognition and what this means for your establishment.

To speak to a member of the CRB Cunninghams team and learn more about how your school can benefit from facial recognition for school meal transactions, book a free demonstration.

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