MUMBAI, INDIA: Ten million professional entrance exams, 130 million semester exams and 50 million Government/PSU recruitment exams: these are the number of exams that candidates appear for, in our country. Almost all of these exams are conducted in a traditional paper-pencil mode and the exam process relies solely on the signature of the candidate as a proof of identity, post facto.
With the intense competition to get the right seat, the appropriate marks and the plum Government post, this process of authentication remains by far the weakest link of the paper-pencil exam process, providing an opportunity for thousands of impersonations to happen routinely. In the last year alone, a quick search on news articles of impersonation has thrown up over 125 cases that have been highlighted by the national media alone.
The current process of authentication in the traditional paper-pencil mode today is to match the facial features of the candidate with the photograph on the hall (admission) ticket, and to match the signature of the candidate that is on the hall-ticket with the one that the candidate signs on the attendance sheet. While there are several drawbacks of the photograph verification (old photos, smudged prints, etc.), this photo verification process by the invigilator is not recorded anywhere at all and hence the signature becomes the sole artifact of authentication once the examination is conducted.
MeritTrac Research team conducted an interesting experiment recently on the effectiveness of identifying forged signatures by experienced invigilators – 60 percent of the invigilators could identify only 50 percent of the forged signatures and only 4 percent were able to accurately identify 95+ percent of the forged signatures. This experiment presents a very bleak picture of the current authentication process – that a very large of impersonations in exams is really possible and that we lack an auditable process to identify such impersonations effectively!
It is this critical issue that MeritTrac is solving by introducing the newest innovation from its stable. With over 1 crore candidates tested till date and having thoroughly understood the intricacies of the system, the Innovation team at MeritTrac set about working on this problem almost 12 months ago. The idea was to use technology in such a manner that it does not disrupt the current process of exams, but comprehensively solves the issue of authentication. Thus was born this service offering christened AuthenTrac.
AuthenTrac is a comprehensive service offering that ensures authenticity of candidates through a combination of biometric fingerprint imprint and a digital photograph that is captured at the time of the examination. To enable this, MeritTrac has created a handheld device that features an optical scanner of 500 dpi (fingerprint reader), camera, keypad, display screen and optionally a bar code or smart-card reader, all housed within a single unit. It is able to connect to the internet directly and transfer data to and from an application server using TCPIP/FTP.
MeritTrac has also created a software application that can synchronize scheduled candidates data to the device and map it with the data collected at the time of the examination.
The idea is to offer the entire process of authentication as a service – where MeritTrac supervisors will deploy adequate number of handheld devices at the exam centers and capture this data. This data can be subsequently used to authenticate the candidate at the time of counseling for seats, interviews or in subsequent exam processes. The service also offers the feature of instantaneous capture of attendance with a time stamp and generates reports for each candidate verified or rejected with a complete audit trail for any RTI queries.
Unveiling the solution, Dr. R. Natarajan, former chairman, AICTE commented: “It will be a very useful scalable, comprehensive solution that will tackle this problem effectively. This will be a very useful service to educational institutions and examination authorities alike in ensuring fair examination processes, thereby furthering the cause of fairness, transparency and meritocracy”.
Madan Padaki, co-founder and CEO, MeritTrac, said, “We are very excited about this innovation, as it addresses a very core issue that has vexed the examination systems so far. I am also delighted with the overwhelming response that we have got. We have already signed up our first large PSU client for this service. We are planning significant investments in our research & innovation efforts – and we expect to roll out several other technology interventions that address the examination process.”
MeritTrac has also filed for a patent for this entire solution, as it is a unique offering that combines the performance reliability of biometric authentication with the convenience of the traditional hall ticket verification method, at an affordable cost.