Iris scans as ID grow in use

Smartphones, ATMs and autos envisioned as prime candidates for iris scan tech as ID verification

By Matt Hamblen
Sept. 2, 2016


“No biometric is bad, but every biometric has its challenges,” Prabhakar said. Statistically, a fingerprint scan can mistakenly identify a fingerprint for someone else (called a false match) once in 10,000 times, while an iris scan makes a false match once in a million times, he said.

The reliability for a fingerprint scan is roughly equivalent to a four-digit PIN, while the iris scan is equivalent to a six-digit PIN. “Banks love it. An iris scan is better security,” Prabhakar said.

Because of that high level of reliability, Delta ID is approaching banks to put ActiveIRIS in ATM machines, and has been in talks with three U.S automakers and several others abroad to include ActiveIRIS in cars, he said.

An infrared sensor in a car could be placed in the instrument panel, center console or rearview mirror to identify who is in the driver’s seat with an iris scan. With that kind of identity information, a car’s systems could be set to individual preferences for the height of the seat or radio stations, Prabhakar said. Iris scanners could even be used to detect when the driver is getting drowsy.

“Car makers can use it for whatever feature they want to build,” he said. A prime market will be rental car companies, which could identify frequent customers once they get seated in a car for a quick checkout.

In future iterations of iris scan technology, Delta ID may enhance the iris scan with identifiable aspects of a person’s nose and eyes, including the shape of the eyes and the distance between the eyes and nose. “It can’t be just the eyes and nose, but that information can supplement other information,” he said.

Interestingly, iris scans work for the blind and even for people with eye diseases, including like cataracts and glaucoma, Prabhakar said. That’s because most of those diseases affect the lens of the eye and not the iris, which is a muscle that controls the pupil aperture.

However, there are some people’s irises that cannot be scanned because their pupils are not circular or are elongated, he said. Or, the iris has been injured or a person cannot open his or her eyes wide enough. India’s national identity program, with 1 billion fingerprints and iris scans completed, found that one in a 1,000 irises could not be scanned. That program also found that one in 20 fingerprints could not be accurately scanned, a much higher rate.

“The iris ID has so much going for it. We want to stay focused on it,” Prabhakar said.

While Delta ID and a few competitors like Eyelock and Iris ID are focused on growing the iris scanning market in various devices, IHS Technology said earlier this year that it is a small market so far. Iris scanners made up less than 1% of the market for iris, fingerprint and facial scanners in 2015, IHS said.

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