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MinuteHound Sponsoring TidBITS

We’d like to welcome as our latest long-term sponsor MinuteHound, a company that provides a zero-contact biometric time and attendance tracking solution. One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about our TidBITS Content Network business of providing syndicated content to Apple professionals is hearing about the challenges faced by Apple-using organizations of all sorts. For instance, since college in the late 1980s, I haven’t had a job that required filling out a time card or clocking in and out. The field has evolved since then, but many companies still need employees to work specific shifts or keep close track of their on-the-job hours. How best to record that data is an interesting problem.

Employers want to make sure that their employees are working the hours they specify, and not claiming to work extra hours or clocking in friends who aren’t present. Plus, firms may need to adjust staffing quickly to respond to changing business conditions. On the other side of the equation, employees want to make sure they get credit for all the time they work, without spending any more time on tracking than necessary.

A solution to these problems comes from MinuteHound, a company run by a long-time TidBITS reader and our latest long-term sponsor. Instead of asking employees to clock in and out via software, or fill in time cards (online or not), MinuteHound uses biometrics to make clocking in and out as quick, easy, and accurate as possible. MinuteHound is used all over the world.

MinuteHound started about 9 years ago with a fingerprint scanner, but 3 years ago, the company started working on a zero-touch approach that relied on facial recognition and was also Mac-native. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing upheavals in staffing and the desire to avoid touching shared surfaces, MinuteHound released its facial recognition system earlier this year.

MinuteHound's Cloud Face Clocking technology

Enrollment takes less than a minute. Once enrolled, all an employee has to do is look at the MinuteHound device’s camera—the software can run on a Mac, a PC, or an Android tablet—and MinuteHound figures out who the person is and clocks them in or out as needed. The information is recorded instantly in the MinuteHound Web portal. When the inevitable mistakes happen, a manager can manually correct the data through the portal.

Privacy is of course a question, but much like Apple’s approach with Touch ID and Face ID, MinuteHound’s biometric recognition algorithms never store actual fingerprints or face scans. Instead, they create a token based on the employee’s fingerprint or face scan, and then store that token. Subsequent scans match against the stored token. All information is also encrypted within the cloud-based system.

I can’t pretend that I’ve regularly used MinuteHound in the real world—precise time tracking isn’t something that matters to my company. But I have set up a free MinuteHound trial account, played with the online interface, and practiced clocking in and out by looking at my Mac’s webcam. It works well, although it became obvious quickly that it would be best run on a dedicated device—perhaps an older Mac laptop or an inexpensive Android tablet that would be easy for employees to walk by on their way in or out.

So if you own, run, or are involved with a business that has time and attendance tracking needs, check out MinuteHound. The American Payroll Association estimates that “buddy punching” and schedule exceptions cost the average business 5% of payroll, so at $3 per employee per month ($2 for businesses with more than 100 employees), MinuteHound pays for itself quickly. Especially if you’re still fussing with paper time cards!

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Comments About MinuteHound Sponsoring TidBITS

Notable Replies

  1. Sorry to see TidBITS taking money from companies like this. The way you write this up makes it sound like it’s designed purely with altruism in mind and to make staff members lives better. In truth, this type of thing is a tool of management to oppress workers and treat them as corporate assets and not human beings.
    You quote The American Payroll Association ‘who estimates that “buddy punching” and schedule exceptions cost the average business 5% of payroll’. I’ll bet they do. I’d love to see the methodology behind that estimate.
    Wouldn’t it be nice to see a company that actually treated its staff like human beings, with respect and trust. Time and time again we have seen when that happens, productivity and profits increase.
    This kind of garbage has no place in the workplace and shame on you for promoting it.

  2. Facial Recognition… Creepy

  3. I see MinuteHound as a tool to track time and attendance, just like any other tool that has been used to track time and attendance throughout the history of business. It’s just an automated way of clocking in and out, of which there are many.

    If you’re an employer who pays employees by the hour and has specific staffing needs, you care deeply about when your employees are present. The goal isn’t to oppress workers, it’s to run the business, and that either can’t happen at all or won’t happen effectively if employees aren’t present when they’ve agreed to be. Time and attendance tracking solutions ensure that everyone’s in agreement about what hours were worked.

    Treating employees like human beings, with respect and trust, should be a base assumption. I would hope any business would only employ people who have taken their jobs voluntarily and with full knowledge of the work requirements, and would pay them fairly and treat them well. I’m fully aware that’s not always the case, but to the extent that such abuses happen, they seem unrelated to a system that provides an automated way for employees to record when they come and go.

    As I noted in the welcome message, the CEO of MinuteHound is a long-time TidBITS reader, and I’ve had several extended conversations with him about the technology and the history of the company. Obviously, I know only what he’s told me, but nothing I heard gave me any significant concern. As far as I can tell, MinuteHound is a company providing a solution to an issue faced by numerous employers, and their customers find it useful and effective.

    Now, as for the privacy issues surrounding facial recognition, that’s a larger topic. I was comfortable with what I was told regarding the tokenization and encryption of the facial recognition data from a general privacy standpoint. Plus, MinuteHound has relatively few people in its system (in the scheme of things—we’re talking orders of magnitude smaller than Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google), they would be widely scattered in the physical world, and the system is unique, so it’s not like its data could just be sucked up by some other entity and turned back into faces for some obvious nefarious purpose.

    To my mind, without some major regulatory shift, the facial recognition train has left the station. Billions of photos and billions of hours of video of people’s faces are available to anyone (many of which are self-inflicted), and the state of machine learning and the hardware available means that it’s a solved technical problem. There’s an entirely legitimate conversation to be had about how that could or should be regulated.

  4. There is nothing secret or hidden, or anything that sounds deceptive about this software. Individuals who choose to use it for themselves are more than likely well aware of how it works. Companies that use it to track employees will have to let them know how it functions as well.

    My husband has been working at home for a few years for a company that uses tracking software, and he’s never heard any problems with it. Now that a larger % of the population is working from home due to the pandemic, many individuals and companies are considering cutting down on office space and commuting time by allowing more part or full time work at home. A friend just happily agreed to a two days in the office, three at home going forward. I know of others talking about working out other deals as well. So I suspect time tracking will become more of a thing.

    I’m glad to hear that a cutting edge company will be supporting TidBITS. I’ll bet a number of readers are IT decision makers, business owners, freelancers or in other positions that would benefit from time tracking. MinuteHound made a very wise media decision in TidBITS.

  5. To be fair, MinuteHound isn’t the sort of thing an individual would use for tracking their time while working from home. It could conceivably do that, but it would be clumsier than an app like Timing. It’s really aimed at businesses with employees that need to track their hours at a particular location. You know, like all those essential businesses we keep going to. :slightly_smiling_face:

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