Could Iris scanning be security’s next big thing

The future of security is in the eye of the beholder-literally. Iris recognition systems have been in use for years already, but until now were mostly available to various government agencies, due to the hefty price tag associated with it. But as the technology progresses and the prices plummet, this biometric security mechanism is finally taking a more consumer-centric approach. As the cameras and the software got cheaper, and the recognition algorithms absolved themselves of innovation-halting legal drawbacks (primarily in 2005, with the expiration of an invaluable patent on the statistical representation of the iris), the system found its way in many everyday businesses, from hospitals to banks. So why is that exactly?

Well, for starters, Iris recognition is super accurate. Experts say that the system is about a hundred thousand times more reliable than most facial recognition mechanisms currently on the market. Unlike the retina scans, which generally work by shinning a bright light through the eye in order to take images of blood vessels in the back (scary stuff), iris scans may use a modified version of a regular camera to take a photo of the colored region of the eye. Of course, the quality and accuracy of the scan is affected by the quality of the camera, but the use in cell phones and on your computer might not be far away. AOptix Technologies, a company experimenting with biometric security, open-sourced a software kit for the use of retina scans in Apple’s iOS, and Google Glass has rumored to be considering taking similar steps. If the trend continues, we might be able to do everything from making financial transactions to logging in on Facebook by scanning our eyes within a couple of years.

Of course, there are many issues Iris recognition systems need to overcome – sunlight, reflection, eyewear, contact lenses, chronic eye conditions, anything that can hinder the scan’s effectiveness. Oh, did I say need to? The sensors have already surpassed all of these obstacles – latest systems are able to deal with most environmental and biological issues potentially facing the user.


Another upside-it can hardly be hacked. Well, as of yet anyway. But this is exactly why whether you fly via Gatwick Airport in London, make payments in one of 80 branches of Cairo Amman Bank, or interact with the Missouri law enforcement, you’re bound to get your eye checked. And this might just be the beginning.

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