Iris Recognition Technology: The Next Level in Authentication

Iris recognition is a biometric strategy used to for identifying individuals. It establishes the authenticity from the high-resolution images of the Iris in the individuals eye. Images of the complex pattern of the structures in the iris are taken using camera technology and IR illumination and the data are converted into digital information. The technology thus uses computer vision, pattern recognition, and optics. Dr. John G. Daugman led the way in the development of this technology. He owns many patents on the methods related to this field and many of them are being successfully used commercially.

Using the iris as biometric means for identification offers many benefits. The iris is ideally located inside the eye protected by the corneal membrane. The use of glasses and contact lenses does not affect the image. The iris is less likely to be damaged or affected with time. Surgical measures can alter the color and shape of the iris; however, its texture remains the same even after decades. Thus, this technology scores over finger printing which can be difficult to match after many years. The shape and the size of the iris are knowable as they are determined by two muscles-Sphincter and Dilator Pupillae.

Even identical or monozygotic twins have a completely different iris texture. 1.5 % of the world’s population is identical twins who share the same genetic make up. Scanning the iris can be done from a meter away. The individual to be identified need not be touched for the purpose and thus more acceptable to many cultures. In this regard it scores over finger printing and retinal scanning as they involve touching and a closer proximity. Dr. Daugman’s Iris code has not yet reported a single false match in the 200 billion odd combinations it has been used.

However, some are skeptical about the use of the technology. The law and immigration departments of many countries use the finger print verification methods. Replacing the existing technology would entail massive investment. The technology requires co-operation from the individual to be identified. He has to face the camera and hold his head still. The technology may invade the privacy of people if it is used against their will or permission. Then, there is the fear of poor picture quality.

Despite the disadvantages, the iris recognition technology has been applied as a biometric strategy of verification Its use has been endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organization along with the use of fingerprint and face recognition. In the Netherlands, the technology has been allowed even to the extent of enabling travelers’ passport free immigration. In U.A.E, all entry points-air, sea, land, is checked by this method. In Canada and U.S, too the airports use this for low-risk travelers. Improvements to this technology will ensure greater levels of accuracy.