Iris scanners are the latest frontier in smartphone security. Originally seen in military devices and fixed installations, iris scanning is the next natural development in smartphone biometric authentication technology. Like voice recognition and fingerprint scanning, iris scanning technology looks to secure our smartphones more effectively than passwords. Read on to learn about this innovative lock or unlock technology and how it can keep your smartphone safe.
Image via Flickr by Didit Putra
Every iris is unique, with different patterns in the ligaments created by random tissues folding during development in the womb. Due to this process’s random nature, the chances of any two people having identical iris patterns are roughly one in 10 to the power of 78.
Smartphones with iris scanners have a dedicated camera on the user-facing side. That’s because your regular smartphone camera has infrared-blocking filters; while that improves the quality of your selfies, it interrupts the NIR scanning process. A standard 640 by 480-pixel camera could scan a single iris, but most iris-scanning cameras have a higher 5-megapixel resolution to scan both irises at once.
Iris scanners use near-infrared (NIR) light to consistently scan and capture the textures of light and dark irises. When you use an iris scanner, you’ll notice the red light, but there will be none of the discomfort you usually feel when a light shines in your eye. It’s also completely safe.
The camera takes a short video of your eye and iris the first time it scans. With every login, the smartphone compares the user’s eye to that first video to determine whether to approve or deny access. By taking a video, rather than a still image, the system knows whether it’s scanning a real person or a photo of the user’s iris.
Smartphone iris scanners are powered by high-quality mobile processors like the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. Superior processors like this make sure the iris scanner works reliably and efficiently.
As we go through life, our voices mature, our faces age and even our fingerprints evolve with callouses and wear. This means, if we have a smartphone for long enough, existing biometric authentication systems may stop recognizing us. Barring injury, the patterns in our irises remain the same throughout our lives, so iris scanning will continue producing consistent results.
“There are 225 different points of comparison that are unique to each iris, compared to 40 on a fingerprint,” Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, explained to ComputerWorld. “So iris scanning can be more accurate.”
His assertions are backed by research conducted by Daehoon Kim, founder and chief executive officer of biometric technology firm IriTech. He says iris scanners have a false acceptance rate of one in 1.2 million, much better than the one in 100,000 non-owners who can log into fingerprint scanners. In addition, iris scanners have a false rejection rate of “very close to zero,” while 3 percent of fingerprint scanner users haven’t been able to log into their devices.
Accuracy is also enhanced by the distance we keep from the sensor. Fingerprint scanners accumulate dirt and dust when we touch them, which decreases their accuracy over time. With an iris scanner, there’s no need to make physical contact, so the scanning surface remains pristine.
Iris scanning also works in a range of conditions. To initialize, the system scans both your eyes. However, it needs just one eye after that, so you can still use the system if you acquire an eye injury.
While you can’t wear glasses to initialize the system, they’re fine for subsequent logins. Clear contacts can be worn during the initialization and login processes.
The iris scanner will also see through some sunglasses, although mirrored shades can be problematic. So can colored contact lenses and specs with scratched, progressive, and high-diopter lenses.
The system can also work indoors and outdoors, although it can struggle in direct sunlight as glare can obscure the iris.
Many leading smartphone developers are already adding iris-scanning technology to their latest models. To date, the Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, the Fujitsu ARROWS NX F-04G, the ZTE Nubia Prague S, and the HP Elite x3 all feature iris scanners. We can expect more smartphone brands to add iris scanners as the technology becomes more mainstream.
Right now iris scanners simply unlock our smartphones. However, there’s real potential for app developers to incorporate scanning technology into their programs. Imagine shopping apps that scan your eyes to make cashless purchases or bank apps that use iris scanning to unlock your sensitive details. As we become more comfortable with iris scanners, we’ll no doubt see the technology used in a variety of ways.
As mobile technology thefts continue to rise, iris scanners are one of the most exciting innovations designed to keep your smartphone and personal information safe.
CEO and Founder at Mighty Shouts.
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