Iris Recognition Emerging as Preferred Biometrics Technology

Biometrics as a whole is growing popular because it is unlikely for such information to be falsified.

With the growing focus on physical and logical security, identity protocols are of the utmost importance in helping to achieve the desired level of security of people, assets and data. This is because many aspects of general security depend on authorities and permissions held by an individual: opening a particular door, visitor permissions, issuing keys, accessing money or materials, etc. In each case, maintaining security depends on correctly identifying an individual and matching them with the proper authorities and permissions – the identity imperative.

Biometrics is one of the fastest-growing categories of identity protocols. One primary reason for this is that it is difficult if not impossible to falsify biometric information. In our daily lives, we almost always confirm the identity of the people we know using a version of biometrics – we recognize the face, the body size and shape, and the voice of our friends, family and coworkers.

It is only for people who we don’t know that we shift to other methods; for example, airport security screeners look at your driver’s license or passport. But even in that case, only photo versions of these documents are accepted, as the near-biometric information — your photograph — helps the screener link you to the document.

Among all the available biometrics, the one most rapidly gaining ground is iris recognition. It is as fast and simple as taking a selfie, and does not require any physical contact with a sensor. An iris cannot be shared or stolen, and iris readers cannot be fooled by makeup, hair or clothing changes. Some can even read through eyeglasses, in diverse weather conditions, outdoors or inside.

More on Biometrics: JFK Airport Installs Facial Recognition to Boost Customs Security

The integration of iris scanners into smart phones has also helped to drive acceptance of the technology. Moreover, it is hands-free, adding a strong measure of convenience to its usage. Subjects can approach an entry point with their arms loaded with books, bags, etc. and have no need to fumble for a card.


Because of its accuracy and ease of use, iris recognition technology is being implemented in a growing number of security systems, displacing card readers and keypads to provide a higher level of security. Some examples include transportation such as airport registered travel programs, financial services as replacements for PINs for more secure banking and education applications where iris recognition is used for book borrowing or online examinations in addition to integration with a school’s access control system. Iris recognition can also be used on moving subjects making it suitable for toll booth/bridges installations.

Iris recognition technology can also benefit business applications. For instance, warehouse access, as well as any secure areas or cages within, can be controlled by the same device that interfaces with the inventory management system. Picked items could be instantly recorded for a precise audit trail that limits theft. Usually this is done with a combination of cards or PINs, handheld devices, remotely managed systems and even paper pick lists. With the integration of security and business processes, you know exactly who is at the location and exactly what they’re doing while they are there.

Market research suggests that biometric technology implementations will grow steadily due to the rising need for higher levels of data and identity security. With most organizations now giving more attention to managing risk, cost-effective iris recognition systems are primed to be the next big thing in access control and identity verification.


Bio: Mark Clifton is president, products and solutions division, and vice president of SRI International.

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