Iris Scanning and the Future of Mobile Security

Posted 9/14/2016 11:06:24 AM by DR. SALIL PRABHAKAR, President and CEO of Delta ID Inc

Iris Scanning and the Future of Mobile Security
The promise of iris scan technology has been shown in sci-fi movies for decades. Various governments use it to secure borders, defense facilities, banks use it to authenticate high value transactions, secure access to safes and vaults. Recent advancements in the evolving mobile biometrics field has brought iris recognition technology to our hands – to our mobile devices. This technology enables us to use our eyes as a unique and secret password that we never have to remember. 

The iris is the doughnut like structure that surrounds the pupil in the eye. It is a muscle that controls the size of the pupil. This muscle has a rich pattern that allows biometric algorithms to extract unique information, and, in effect, create a stronger password compared to, say, fingerprints. The iris is a protected internal organ, and unlike fingerprints, it is not affected by what a user touches, hence works for users across occupations that require manual labor such as farming, construction etc. The iris is also known to work for users across age groups, whereas fingerprints are not as reliable for users with soft skin or older people with harder skin.  Additionally, unlike face or voice, the iris is not affected by external conditions – lighting or noise.

Hence, overall iris is a more secure and reliable biometric modality for identifying and authenticating users

In a recent survey of smartphone users conducted by Macromill in Japan, participants were asked their opinions on the use of fingerprint and iris recognition for unlocking phones. All participants have used both iris-enabled smartphones and fingerprint-enabled smartphones from Samsung, Sharp, Sony and Apple. Here are a few key findings: 

- As many as 50% more consumers owning a smartphone with iris scanners use their iris to unlock their smartphones compared to consumers who use their fingerprints to unlock their smartphones with a fingerprint scanner

- Approximately 90% of the users of iris scanners were satisfied with the functionality

- Consumers found the speed and accuracy of the iris scanner the most appealing 

With remarkable advances in the technology, iris recognition is now available in multiple smartphones and tablets in the market. Delta ID, a company focused on iris recognition for consumer mobile devices, collaborated with Fujitsu to introduce the first smartphone with iris recognition technology in Japan in May 2015. Since then multiple smartphones and tablets with iris recognition technology have been announced or launched by various manufacturers, including Microsoft, HP and Samsung. As reported by users using these devices, iris recognition is simple to use, reliably works for users across demographics, and consumers seem to like the convenience of just looking at their mobile device.  

While most of the application use today is for unlocking phones, the security capabilities enable is to be used for other applications such as mobile payments and secure enterprise access. Iris elevates security of mobile payments, both at point-of-sale terminals and online by integrating iris technology in the device  so that the secure vault containing credit card related information is accessed only upon successful authentication of the user's iris.

Iris, with its advantages over face, eye veins, voice, fingerprints and other modalities will prove to be a better password over time. It will provide a safer, and more reliable solution to what may perhaps be one of the biggest pain points in the use of modern day technology – passwords. 

Iris recognition is clearly the next step in the evolution of mobile security.

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About the author: DR. SALIL PRABHAKAR, President and CEO of Delta ID Inc

Dr. Salil Prabhakar is an expert in the area of biometrics - fingerprints and iris scanning technology. He has co-authored 50+ publications (14,000+ Google Citations), two editions of the award-winning Handbook of Fingerprint Recognition, five book chapters, and eight edited proceedings. He has several patents granted and pending. He has served as an Associate editor of IEEE Trans. on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, SPIE Journal of Electronic Imaging, EURASIP Journal of Image and Video Processing, Elsevier Pattern Recognition, and Current Bioinformatics. He was lead guest co-editor of April 2007 IEEE Transactions of Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence Biometrics Special Issue. He has been a co-chair/program chair for 10+ IEEE, IAPR and SPIE conferences, was general co-chair of the 5th International Conference on Biometrics in 2012 in New Delhi. He was VP Finance of IEEE Biometrics Council during 2010-2012.

He is currently President and CEO of Delta ID Inc., a California technology company he co-founded in 2011. 

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