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Sensors-enabled smart attendance systems using NFC and RFID technologies.


Successful schools begin by engaging students and making sure that they will come to school regularly, so the attendance rate become very important. Attendance system is a system that is used to track the attendance of a particular person and is applied in the industries, schools, universities or working places. The attendance rate will be calculated based to the average percentage of students attending school in every class of the course. The attendance rate is important because students are more likely to succeed in academics when they attend class consistently. It's difficult for the lecturer and the class to build their skills and progress if a large number of students are frequently absent. Moreover, the students have given the right to have their own time management in university. This will cause the attendance rate of the class become a major problem because some student may choose to absent from the class. Therefore, students from university in Malaysia are required to attend the class not less than 80% per semester otherwise student will be barred from taking any examinations.

The traditional way for taking attendance has drawback, which is the data of the attendance list hard to reuse. If the lecturer wants to calculate the percentage of the students that attend to the class, he/she has to calculate manually or input by typing. This also easy lead to human error such as the lecturer may wrongly. The technology-based attendance system will reduce the human involvement and decrease the human error. There are various types of attendance systems that are applied in different fields. Mostly, the working places are still using the punch card system. But some of them had integrated their system into biometric attendance system. The biometric attendance system is based on fingerprint identification using extraction of minutiae techniques and it is very reliable and convenient to verify the identity of people. Human fingerprint is read by the reader to take the attendance as the uniqueness of human's fingerprints [1]. Another technology is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) based attendance system that consists of RFID Reader, RFID Tag, LCD displays and microcontroller unit [2]. RFID can be interfaced to microcontroller through Universal Synchronous, Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter (USART) [2]. Data is transferred from RFID cards to reader and from there to the microcontroller. These attendance systems are important for large scale organizations in order for them to process a large number of workers' attendances rapidly. It makes the work more efficient and produces accurate results.

The NFC based attendance system is another means to tackle conventional attendance system problems.above. Because the installation cost of NFC based attendance system is lower than the other advance attendance system likes the fingerprint attendance system. The main advantages of the NFC are the simple and quick way of using it and the speed of connection establishment is fast [4]. Besides that, other important advantages of NFC technology have also included the transmission range of NFC devices. The transmission range is so short, when the user separates the two devices more than the limited range, then communication is broken [5]. The NFC based attendance system can process the data collected in a quicker way compared to manual system which need to enter the data one by one. Besides, all the data will be saved on the server and this can avoid of losing any students' attendance. Students can also check their attendance rate using their smartphones through the login system from time to time to avoid any miss entering of attendance. Thus the main objective of this paper has present a new NFC based attendance system capable of recording and tracking students' attendance in the classroom. Second objective will look into two-different sensor based attendance system which is RFID and NFC-enabled.

The remainder of the paper is organized as follows, in section 2, it introduces about background and related work on the existing attendance system. Section 3 look into the Near Field Communication based attendance, the way the near field communication works and the units used to develop the (NFC) Attendance Based system project. Section 4 and 5 discussed NFC-enabled Attendance System and RFID-enabled Attendance System. Section 6 present discussion followed by a conclusion.


There have some researches that develop technology-based attendance system. Basically technology-based attendance system can divided into two groups; i) Biometric-based Attendance System and ii) Sensor-based Attendance System. Next we will discuss some of related systems within this two group.

2.1 Biometric-Based Attendance System

Biometric-based attendance system recognize a person identity based on the biological characteristic such as fingerprint, hand geometry, voice, retina, iris and face recognition which reliably distinguishes one person from another or used to recognized the identity. They have five subsystems: data collection, signal process, matcher, storage and transmission. However, the biometric system is suitable for highly secured system and mostly the biometric system is expensive [9]. Kadry and Smaili [10], implement an attendance system based on iris recognition. The system takes attendance as follows ;a) a digital image of one person's eyes to be verified is captured ;b) feature extracting algorithm is carried out;c) minutiae are extracted and stored as a template for verifying later; d) eople to be verified place his eye on the iris recognition sensor and e) matching algorithm is applied to match minutiae. Talaviya [11], implement a system that takes attendance of student by using fingerprint sensor module. When the student enrolls his/her finger on the finger print sensor module, his/her fingerprint will matched with database to mark the attendance. Chintalapti and Raghunadh [12], implement an automated attendance management system based on face detection and recognition algorithm. Every time the student enter the class, his / her images will be capture by the camera placed in the entrance. The images will retrieve the identity of the student and take attendance for that student. They use Viola-Jones algorithm for the face detection part. There are five performance evaluation conditions used by them for the face recognition part, which are PCA + Distance Classifier, LDA + Distance Classifier, PCA + SVM, PCA + Bayes, LBPH + Distance Classifier. As a whole biometrics systems are known for its more expensive means of setup and operational costs. In term of its accuracy, biometrics attendance system prevents cheating and has lesser false alarm rate.

2.2 Sensor-Based Attendance System

Barcode technology is a method of identification, which is used to retrieve in a shape of symbol generally in bar, vertical, space, square and dots which have different width with each one A reader of scanners are required to identify the data that represent by each barcode by using light beam and scan directly to barcode. During scanning process, a scanner measured intensity of reflected light at black and white region. A black region will absorb the light, meanwhile white region will reflect it [9]. Smart card is built with variety of chip with a simple memory consisting of byte of information may have range from 1K up to 64K of microcontroller or multi-application memory. Smart card can use as individual identification, building access and network access are part of a multi-tiered program that is in the final stages of rolling out. The data in smart card can be read when a physical contact has a reader [9]. Meng and Mahinderjit [9], implement an attendance, which take attendance by using RFID. Figure 1 shows the system architecture of the RFID attendance system [9].

RFID is an automatic identification method, whereby identification data are stored in electronic devices, called RFID tags (Transponders), and RFID readers (interrogators) retrieve these data. Based on the figure, students only needs to place their RFID tags which contain a unique id number on the reader and their attendance will be taken immediately. Every time the student enters / leaves the class, they need to scan their RFID tags with RFID reader. The RFID reader will read the identification code in the RFID tags and transfer the code to the PC, which connected with USB. A program in PC will retrieve the student's identity from the database using the identification code that received and take attendance for that student. RFID based attendance systems are costly and requires extra infrastructure for its operational. Ayu and Ahmad [13], implement NFC supported attendance system in a University Environment named as TouchIn. Before the class start, the lecturer will run a mobile application on his/her own NFC-enabled smartphone, students that want to take the attendance will run another mobile application which will fetch the student ID from file, read the device ID and beam (send) it to the lecturer's device by simply touching the device. The attendance of the student will be taken. This system has disadvantages if compared to this project such as the accuracy is low on the identification part. The student can help his/her friend taking attendance, although his/her friend is absent. They just need to borrow their smartphone to his/her friend and his/her friend can scan the lecture's device with the smartphone and attendance will be taken.


A smartphone is a mobile phone with an operating system. Smartphones typically include the features of a phone with those other popular mobile devices, such as personal digital assistants, media player and GPS navigation unit. Most have a touchscreen interface and can run 3rd-party apps, and are camera phones. Later smartphones add broadband internet web browsing, WI-FI motion sensor and mobile payment mechanisms. Soomro, 2013[5], shows that almost 2 billion people all around the world will be using Smartphones, Laptop, Tablets and Desktops by 2014. This rapid growth for smartphones over the years shows the amount of users of smartphones are increasing and this means it will be easier to just put in an NFC tag on each of the smartphones for people to use it and it'll be more convenient. Besides that, most of the Android smartphones has the NFC tag.

NFC stands for Near Field Communication which is a wireless communication interface for the devices that equipped with NFC [3]. The working distance for NFC is just up to 10cm only, but the set up time is just less than 0.1s [3]. There are 2 kinds of modes which is active mode and passive mode for the NFC devices [3] (as shown in Table 1). The device which generates its own RF field is called an active device, while the device which retrieves the power from another device is called a passive device. Besides that, the device which starts the communication is called an initiator. The initiator is only in active mode and could have many targets which either active mode or passive mode. One initiator can only communicate with one target at one of time while other relevant targets will be ignored at first [3]. Hence, the broadcasting message is impossible in the NFC.

NFC works on the principles of sending information over radio waves [3]. The technology used in NFC is based on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) idea which uses the electromagnetic induction to transfer information. The transmission frequency of NFC is 13.56 MHz with the transfer speed of 424 Kbps, which is fast enough for data transfers [3]. NFC is currently supported for peer-to-peer mode, which means 2 devices with NFC-enabled are able to exchange information between each other. NFC has also supported read/write mode. An active device is able to read the information from another device. For example, a smartphone is reading the information from an NFC advert tag. Lastly, NFC device is able to act as a credit card or a contactless card in order to make payments in card emulation mode.


The proposed system in this project is a web based attendance system using NFC technology in Android smartphones. The system has two main components which are reader unit and server unit which is hardware and software components respectively. The hardware component of reader unit are NFC enabled Android smartphone and student materials card with NFC tag while the server unit is the computer that host web services and databases. This part of the paper consists of, how two sections that are User Interface which explains about the user interface of the project and the System interface which also explains about the System interface about how it works and how is it done. The figures 2 show the examples of the interfaces.

According to above figure, there are two classes of user which is the students and the lecturers.

Next we will discuss on the NFC based attendance and this is shown in Figure 3. Firstly, the administrator of the school needs to create an account for the students and lecturers in order for them to login to the system. The admins are able to update the account and delete the account in case of wrong data is entered. Besides that, admin should generate a list of the students that enrolled in the particular subject for lecturers' reference. On the mobile app, students need to login to their account in order to register for the attendance for each class that they attend. They also can view the amount of attendance for respective subjects on their phones. For the lecturers, they need to login to the system first and select the subject every time they want to record the attendance. The lecturers will be able to calculate the total attendance of the class and generate a report about the attendance rate at the end of the semester.

The student has to tap the matric card towards the NFC android Smartphone and automatically the attendance will stored in the server. For the lecturers to check the attendance of the student, the system will retrieve the attendance information from the server to the Lecturer's smartphones. The system also does give the information to student's as well to check for them whether the days they have attended and did not attend for their own record. In this project, the implementation strategy used is bottom-up strategy. The implementation start from the lowest level of software unit such as view report, take attendance, generate reports and etc., which are the function within the student module and lecturer module. Then, all the lower units are linked together to form higher level units such as NFC module, student module and lecturer module. Next, the modules were designed and implemented, followed by the subsystems and finally the complete system.

In order to do the testing, users log in as the administrator, lecturer and students. RFID system, web page system, smartphone application and tablet application were fully tested. Below are the results of the functional testing shown in Table 2. Testing is the process of examining a component, subsystem, or system to determine its operational characteristic and whether it contains any defects. The lecturer will be assigned an account with ID and password. They need to login to the system with their corresponding authentication to create an attendance sheet of the conducted classes and view the report of the attendance of the student. They only can create the course they have enrolled. The student needs to approach their NFC tag (Matric card) to login, system to view their attendance report. The student can only take 1 time attendance in each attendance sheet of class conducted. Students who enroll for the course only can take the attendance.

The lecturer will be assigned an account with ID and password. They need to login to the system with their corresponding authentication to create an attendance sheet of the conducted classes and view the report of the attendance of the student. They only can create the course they have enrolled. The student needs to approach their NFC tag (Matric card) to login, system to view their attendance report. The student can only take 1 time attendance in each attendance sheet of class conducted. Students who enroll for the course only can take the attendance.


In this section, RFID-enabled Attendance System Management presented by Meng and Mahinderjit-Singh [9] will be discussed. This project has two parts one is web page system and the others are smartphone and tablet application. After student enters or leaves the classroom by scanning RFID card lecturer could view the attendance situation of the class and the movement of different student through web page system, smartphone system and tablet system. Student could view his attendance only and movement only through web page system, smartphone system and tablet system. Besides that, lecturer or student could track the attendance history by both systems. This project is expected to provide a smart attendance system for different users to sign attendance and view situation of attendance. When the users enter the classroom or lecture hall, they have the option either to swipe their card on the reader or simply let the card detected by the reader. The card attached with RFID tag, which can be detected by the reader as long as certain range of distance between the tag and the reader is complying. Once the reader detect and obtain the information, it will be then saved to its own database automatically. In addition the lack of automated attendance system in the School of Computer Sciences especially in our lecture halls is our main motivation undesigning this prototype. Figure 3 shows the data flow of the whole system.

For web page system, Meng and Mahinderjit Singh [9] have used ASP.Net, CSS, and JavaScript through Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 to implement. The other two are Windows Phone application and Windows Surface application, in this application, we will adopt Windows Phone 8 platform to implement. The simulation algorithm, which is Monte Carlo, will be integrated as well. Monte Carlo simulation is a method for exploring the sensitivity of a complex system by varying parameters within statistical constraints.The system includes two different parts. The first part is the web page platform. The second is the ubiquitous platform. All this parts are integrated to function together. The system is able to function according to three different user roles. This roles and privileges follow the access control and authorization principles. We are following the Discretionary Access Control (DAC) model [12]. Among the three users listed below are:

a) Administrator- an user with the highest privileges and authorization. Typically, an administrator can enroll students and lecturer, register course for students and lecturers, using Monte Carlo simulation.

b) Lecturer- an user who has enrolled by administrator. Typically, a lecturer can check and track the students' attendance and class movement.

c) Student- an user who has lowest privileges and authorization. Typically, a student can only check his attendance and class movement.

Next, the hardware used in the attendance system is presented next.

5.1 RFID Hardware

In RFID platform, MIFARE522_MODULE has been utilized as hardware reader. The tag used here is from the class of passive tag. RFID attendance platform has three main functions; which are attendance recording, duplication reading& miss reading, and monitoring of attendance record by lecturer, Figure 4 shows the RFID model and tags.

Next is the detail of each function.

5.2 Smartphone and Tablet Platform (Windows Phone & Windows Surface)

For Windows Phone and Windows Surface platform, each of one has three main functions; which is the user login and monitoring of attendance records done by student and lecturer. All the capabilities of the system are listed below.

a) Login/Logoff Function

When user login the system (Windows Phone & Windows Surface part), user has to enter their correct username, password and choose correct use type. Username is the users email address, and initial password is user matric number or staff number. If one of the information does not correct user cannot login and system will show an error message to user.

b) Lecturer Checking Student Attendance & Movement

After lecturer login the Windows Phone & Windows Surface system, he/she could press View Attendance button to check student attendance for each class, which he taught. Next the system will show the course list base on teaching year, after the lecturer press one of the courses, system will list all the classes, which are set by admin. Next lecturer could press one of the classes and system will jump to Student Attendance interface. System will show the situation of attendance and if lecturer presses the Statistic button, system will jump to next interface and show the attendance statistic of this class. Next, lecturer could press any of the students to check his/her movement of this class. After lecturer press one of the students, system will jump to Student Movement interface and it will show the movement record of this student. At the bottom of this interface, system shows the time of this student staying in classroom. At last but not least, lecturer could press back button to check movement of another student. Figure 5 and Figure 6 show the interface of lecturers check student attendance.

c) Student Checking Attendance & Movement

After student login the smartphone system or tablet system, he could press View Attendance button to check his attendance for each class. Next the system will show the course list base on teaching year, after the student press one of the courses, system will list all the classes, and his attendance status. And then, student could press one of the classes and system will jump to Student Movement interface and it will show his movement record. At the bottom of this interface, system shows the time of this student staying in classroom. At last but not least, student could press back button to check his movement of another class. Figure 11 and Figure 12 show the interface of students check student attendance.

d) RFID-Attendance event Duplication Reading

The aim of doing a duplication reading is in case of someone duplicate the card and sign attendance for students. After the students scan the card, system will check the validity of the card. If the card is a fake one, system will beep three times and it will not be record in the system. If the card is a real one, system will record the data in the system.

e) RFID-Attendance event Miss Reading

The aim of miss reading is to inform the user of event in which the automated system fails to record an attendance record. One way of tackling this is right after a student scans his card, the system will give a feedback by beep sound and send an email to student. If the student do not hear the beep sound and do not receive the email, it means system did not detect the card and the student will have to scan his/her card again.

f) Email Generation

In this function, system will send an email to user in two situations. One is when students scan the card, the system will send an email to students and inform them their current status. Second, if a person uses a fake card to sign attendance for a student, system will find it out and send an email to the real user to inform him that someone has duplicated their card.There are two scenarios in which an attendance system can be attack in term of its security. First scenario is when a student is absence from a class but would trick the system in showing he has attended all are 80% of the course class. The second scenario is when a student that has not enroll for the course but would like to join it without paying the fees for it.


In this section, benchmarking between various methods of attendance systems, comparison between RFID and NFC and security challenges within the attendance systems.

6.1 Comparisons Between Different Attendance Systems

No system is perfect. Every system will have their own advantages and disadvantages. Table 3 shows the comparison of several types of attendance system that mentioned earlier with the proposed solution. Table 4 shows the comparison between NFC and RFID. The proposed solution is a multifactor identification system, which integrate face detection and recognition function into sensor technology, NFC. Different aspect has been analysis through the comparison such as:

* Take student Attendance--The system can take the student's attendance successfully and provide information about student attendance status (Absent / Attend).

* Reuse Student Attendance Information--The student attendance information can be reuse for other system. The system can provide the statistic about class attendance and lecturers no need calculate on their own. The data about attendance information of each class will store in the database automatically.

* Prevent Cheating Issue--The system has higher accuracy on the identification part and eliminates the cheating issue. The student cannot take attendance on behalf of another student such as the student may help his / her friend for taking attendance but his / her friend is absent.

* Fault Tolerance--The taking student's attendance process still on-going if the system encountered any error. The system will become flexible and fault tolerance if the user can choose another method for taking student's attendance without any human involvement.

* Price--The implementation and employment cost of the system.

Overall, both RFID and NFC provide an efficient method of tracking and monitoring of students and the price of functional and operational are both medium.

Overall performance based on the comparison between RFID and NFC shows that both technologies have their weakness and benefits. However, in terms of conveniences, NFC-based attendance provide better performance. However, the current NFC attendance system only has minimal security features and can be improvised further in the future.

6.2 NFC/RFID Security Attacks in Attendance System & Mitigation

The first scenario in which an absent student could trick the system by the following technique such as; i) DOS attack--to compromised the server availability by performing jamming of server by multiple packet requests; ii) manipulation of data by either deleting and inserting additional data. This act can be done on the server by either an insider or an outsider (with the help of man in the middle attack) and finally iii) tag swapping in which genuine's tag data is replaced without the knowledge of its user. The second scenario on the other hand is an act of masquerading in which a genuine users information is manipulated by act such as eavesdropping and man-in-the middle.

This valid information is then changed and added on blank NFC tag. The system will be unable to detect this kind of behavior unless detection and constant monitoring mechanism is planted in hand. Overall, the effect of the attacks taking place compromises the availability, confidentiality and integrity of the user, devices and servers. The mitigation for data manipulation on server and tag would be to ensure data is trusted to be alive by usage of random numbers mechanism. Attack such as man in the middle and eavesdropping could be mitigated as well with the use of either nonces or high level random number generators. In addition, key encryption between the server and NFC tag by using either symmetric or asymmetric encryption key will also solve the issue of data manipulation and insertion, tag swapping and tag cloning since the integrity of user digital identity can be maintained.

7 Conclusion

In this paper, sensors based attendance system is presented. Two technologies, mainly the NFC and RFID are used. Architectures and functionality of both technologies are discussed in depth. Benchmarking between these two technologies with other types of attendance systems are also given. Overall, a brief discussion on the security related to both NFC and RFID is demonstrated. In the future, further work in adding functionality in term of security on the NFC-based attendance system will be done. In addition, the merges between biometrics identifiers such as facial features and sensors features such as NFC and RFID will also be implemented. As a whole, this new technology, NFC based attendance system is projected to provide some beneficial to the current generation Y students in universities. The main contribution with such move is to completely utilized the smartphone capabilities to maximum and to take advantage with the current smartphone phenomena among young users.


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Cheah Boon Chew, Manmeet Mahinderjit-Singh, Kam Chiang Wei, Tan Wei Sheng, Mohd Heikal Husin, Nurul Hashimah Ahamed Hassain Malim

School of Computer Sciences, University Sains Malaysia,11800 Penang Malaysia;; [kcwei; twsheng].ucom12@; [heikal; nurulhashimah]

Table 1. Possible Combination Active/Passive with
Initiator/Target [3]

Mode      Initiator    Target

Active    Possible     Possible
Passive   Impossible   Possible

Table 2. NFC-based Attendance System Functional Testing

User           Function                Description           Working

Lecturer   Select User Type    Select the user type based      YES
                                 on their type
           Login               Login with ID and password      YES
           Home page           Display option for lecturer     YES
           Create attendance   Select course, time and         YES
             sheet               date to create a new
                                 attendance sheet
           Take attendance     Able to manually take           YES
                                 attendance or read
                                 student's NFC tag
           Proceed to take     Continue with take              YES
             attendance on       attendance activity
             the current         without create a new
             sheet               sheet
           Generate report     Display a list of               YES
                                 attendance of the
                                 student by selecting
                                 the course
           View particular     click on the student in         YES
             student             the report to view
             attendance          the detail report
           Filter attendance   Display a list of student       NO
             by date             attended the class on the
                                 selected the date
Student    Login with NFC      Scan NFC tag to view report     YES
           View personal       Display attendance of           YES
             attendance          the student
           View date and       Click on the attribute          YES
             time of Class:      to view the date and time
             and absence

Table 3. Comparison of Several Types of Attendance

Attendance    Take student   Reuse Student   Prevent
System         Attendance     Attendance     Cheating
                              Information     Issue
Traditional     [check]
Biometric       [check]         [check]      [check]
Barcode         [check]         [check]
Smart Cards     [check]         [check]
RFID            [check]         [check]
NFC             [check]         [check]

Attendance      Fault       Price
System        Tolerance

Traditional                 Cheap
Biometric                 Expensive
Barcode                     Cheap
Smart Cards                 Cheap
RFID                       Medium
NFC                        Medium

Table 4. Comparison between RFID and NFC-based
attendance system

Properties                 RFID                    NFC

Infrastructure      Additional readers       Only Smartphone
                      and tags needed       with in-built NFC
                                           (or else additional
                                                NFC tag)
Conveniences for       Hard to setup             Medium
  setting up
Conveniences               Good                Excellence
  for usage
Cost                       High                    Low
Efficiency in           Excellence             Excellence
  tracking &
Security            Added functionality     Minimal security
  /Functionality       such as miss             features
  Features         reading, duplication,
                      basic security
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:near field communication; radio frequency identification
Author:Chew, Cheah Boon; Mahinderjit-Singh, Manmeet; Wei, Kam Chiang; Sheng, Tan Wei; Husin, Mohd Heikal; M
Publication:International Journal of New Computer Architectures and Their Applications
Article Type:Report
Date:Jan 1, 2015
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