Next Step in Mobile Security: Iris Recognition

In a few years, thanks to iris recognition technology, we may never need to remember another password to access our laptops, tablets or smartphones.

Iris recognition is an automated method of biometric identification that uses mathematical pattern-recognition techniques on video images of one or both of the irises of an individual’s eyes, whose complex random patterns are unique, stable, and can be seen from some distance.

Various governments use iris scans to secure their borders and at defense facilities. Banks use it to authenticate high-value transactions and secure access to safes and vaults. Recent advancements in the evolving mobile biometrics field have 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.iris scan

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. It works for users across occupations that require manual labor such as farming, construction, athletes, doctors, and janitors.

Iris recognition 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. That’s why iris recognition is a 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 from the survey:

– 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 it 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.

With all that’s going for it, it’s easy to see how iris recognition, 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.


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