Iris Scanning and Smartphones

The Hargrave Eye Center’s latest post:

For a long time, iris scanning was something to be found in James Bond movies and other thrillers. It seemed like advanced technology far out of our grasps. However, this technology is used in the military and as a fixed security device in certain sectors. Now, it’s being taken to the next level. Scientists developed iris scanning technology that can be installed onto a smartphone and used to log into the phone. Iris scanning is now one of the biometric options users can use to log into their phones, along with voice recognition and fingerprint scans.

How does it work?

Your iris (the colored part of the eye) has random patterns in ligaments from the tissue folding in utero. The odds of two irises having the same pattern are astronomical and pretty near impossible. The iris is unique, similar to a fingerprint, even though some people have nearly identical fingerprints and it changes over time due to daily activities. Some smartphones have already instituted iris scanning technology, including the Galaxy Note7 and the Lumia 950.

Spokespersons for the companies are being vague about how exactly the technology works in an effort to avoid being targeted by hackers. Daehoon Kim, the founder and CEO of IriTech, is less worried. He reveals the “images can now be captured using [off the shelf] CMOS sensors, with negligible extra cost for an NIR LED.” NIR light is used because it can scan any colored iris and doesn’t hurt the eye as a bright light would. Current research shows that shining this light into your eye poses no risk and is quite safe.

For people with glasses and contacts, the scanner works, but it is advised that the initial scan is done sans glasses. For those who wear colored contacts or have progressive lenses scanning becomes more difficult.

Is it secure?

Everyone involved in the development of the technology claims that it is nearly foolproof. Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, says “There are 225 different points of comparison that are unique to each iris, compared to 40 on a fingerprint.” In current studies, the chances of the smartphone unlocking for an iris which is not the owners is 1 in 1.2 million and the rate of rejecting the owner’s iris is almost zero. These numbers are significantly better than those for fingerprint scanning.

A danger biometric log-in poses is if the information stored on the phone would somehow be stolen. You can change a password, but you certainly cannot change your iris. Luckily, the FIDO Alliance has already considered this issue. They’ve pushed the approach to never sync any of the info online and keep it all stored within the phone (much like bank information). All phone companies agree to comply with this standard. Iris scanning promises to be a secure way to protect the valuable information that’s on your smartphone; we just need to wait for the technology to be widely released.

from Hargrave Eye Center |Ocular Health Experts


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