The future of iris recognition systems

You might be thinking, I’m a regular ole homeowner with a lock and key. I don’t need to know about iris readers and biometric devices. Well, biometric devices, like iris recognition systems, aren’t just for the super spy movie or high-security government facility anymore. Iris readers are easy to install and integrate into existing access control systems. But what does this matter to you? If you have a child headed off to college or if you work in a building with an existing access control system, keep reading to find out.

Iris readers are popping up in a variety of places like mobile phones, ATMs, and colleges. Virginia Commonwealth University and Georgia Southern have installed hands-free iris readers to allow students to purchase their food! Think back to your college days: that dining hall smell and required meal plan. Remember your growling stomach getting that much angrier when the guy at the front didn’t look like his picture or his card wouldn’t scan, causing the line to back up. At Georgia Southern, more than 4200 people are signed up for the required meal plan. With the hands-free iris readers, students can skip scanning their card to gain access to two dining halls, the library, and the recreation center. Students prefer this method, three-to-one, over the fingerprint and card readers. And why wouldn’t they? Iris readers are more hygienic and faster.

How does it work? To enroll, a person stands roughly 10 inches from a digital camera, which snaps a picture of the iris. No bright lights, no lasers and you can wear contacts or glasses. “Software algorithms convert the photo of the iris into an encrypted 512-byte template that cannot be re-engineered or reconstituted to produce any sort of visual image”, explains Tim Meyerhoff from Security Dealer & Integrator magazine. This means that the original photo of your eyes cannot be re-created. Some students at Virginia Commonwealth University expressed concern about the iris photos; however, the university’s recognition system does not store photos of the iris. The software stores the digital photographed iris pattern (D-PIP) template and, when a user accesses the system, the D-PIP is compared to the recognition station to allow access. This also makes it possible for blind people to use iris readers.

Because fingerprints change as we age (and from scars/cuts) and because ID cards can be shared/lost/forgotten at home, iris readers are being installed as an added security layer in buildings with existing access control systems. I mean, you can’t forget your iris! Iris readers never return a false acceptance, which means that you can feel safer at work knowing the people that inside are only those who should be there. And, because iris readers rarely return a false rejection, you won’t have to worry about not gaining access.

Although this technology can only be found in a few places now, many organizations are looking for new ways to identify users. Healthcare with pharmacy dispensing, government with voter registration, retailers with point of sale payments – the possibilities are endless: it’s definitely a trend you’ll want to keep your eye on.

Resources for this article:

Meyerhoff, Tim. “The Case for Iris Recognition.” Security Dealer & Integrator Mar. 2017: 46+. Web.

Georgia Southern University  and Iris ID