In 2002 Steven Spielberg released the science fiction film ‘Minority Report’ which was set in a not-too-distant future in which a form of iris recognition was not only socially accepted, but demanded as a common occurrence. We haven’t yet reached those levels in our own day and age, but it’s amazing to think about what they future of the technology may bring.
When the iris recognition algorithm was created by British scientist John Daugman in 1991, it hardly seemed the most revolutionary or, pardon the pun, eye-catching IT security breakthrough of its time. But looking back now, nearly twenty-five years later, it’s extraordinary to think how far the technology has come and what an enormous scientific and cultural impact it has had.
How does it work?
The human eye is the most detailed, intricate and unique part of our outer body, thus making it one of the most ideal ways to identify a person. The iris recognition algorithm hones in on every miniscule intricacy of a person’s iris and makes a scientifically proven matching identification. The image is scanned through a computer database where millions of images are searched in a matter of seconds, before a match is found.
Where is it used?
Iris recognition is primarily used for security purposes at airports, entry and exit points, and in government buildings and is becoming more prevalent in the Middle East for identification by soldiers. Its use will continue to improve at a fast rate as camera technology develops and higher quality systems allow for recognition at greater distances, among crowds and with subjects on the move. The technology has progressed exponentially from its inception. Studies today record an error rate is one in a million, a far cry from the early nineties. Some countries use iris recognition measures to protect entry to their businesses and it is even utilised on computers and mobile phones for added IT security.
The iris is perfect for identification because it is not affected by as many muscles as the face which can change dramatically through muscle movement.
The reliability of iris recognition has surpassed fingerprint scanning in terms of results. The iris has more natural protection than our fingerprints which can become affected by years of wear and tear, particularly if a person has spent years working in manual labour with their hands.
The chances of misidentification are quite low because of the uniqueness of each person’s iris. While we can’t scientifically say that no iris is the same as another, it’s extremely unlikely to be an issue in identification.
Iris scanning is superior to retina scanning, which requires the eye to come in contact with an eyepiece, like looking into a camera. Iris recognition can be performed from as much as 10cm away and advancements are pushing the boundaries even farther.
Cost is a huge barrier in the implementation of iris recognition. High-grade iris scanners are almost flawless, but cheaper designed models open the door to weaknesses that can attack the perception of the technology.
Unmanned stations can be fooled by high quality photographs of an iris which proves that you still can’t trust a computer algorithm; you still need a person on hand to maintain that the system is not exploited.
Eye surgery, particularly of the cataracts can make alterations to the iris that would make previous identification impossible. IT security company CTRlit can secure your servers.
Iris recognition technology is operating on a shifting landscape and will need to continue to alter its services to keep up with various technological and medical advances that accelerate the ways our body and particularly our iris behaves.