Biometric iris recognition technology is closer to popular use than one might believe it to be. Over 1000 ATMs of financial institutions in Chicago and Montreal are now using iris recognition in lieu of debit cards.
The below image shows an iris based biometric authentication in ATMs –
Read on to understand what exactly is biometric iris recognition technology, how it works, what are the benefits of using it and which areas of application it is being used…
What is biometric iris recognition
Biometric iris recognition utilizes pattern recognition techniques based on high-resolution and distortion-free images of the irises of the human eyes.
Iris is an organ whose structure remains stable throughout life. Thus it serves as a very good biometric for establishing identity of an individual.
Because of its very low margin-of-error and fast speed, iris recognition is now one of the most trusted ways of confirming the identity of a person.
Technology overview: biometric iris recognition
Iris recognition systems take high resolution images of the iris of a person’s eye and then utilize pattern recognition for reading and matching his iris patterns against the patterns stored in the biometric database.
Have a look at the diagram below –
Most iris recognition systems use a 750 nm wavelength light source to implement near-infrared imaging. This enables the system to block out light reflection from the cornea and thus create images which highlight the intricate structure of iris.
But these images become difficult to recognize in the identification step. Hence, now-a-days visual wavelength imaging is being preferred over near infrared imaging.
Iris recognition process consists of three distinct steps –
The first step consists of capturing the image of the iris of the person whose identity needs to be verified. The image capture itself can be manual or automated but it needs to be ensured that the iris is in proper focus and that the image is captured with clarity.
Locating the iris and optimizing the image
In this step, first the iris recognition system optimizes on the focus and the clarity of the image. It then identifies the iris boundaries followed by the center of the pupil which is also the center of the circular iris. Finally, it analyzes the area of the iris image which is suitable for feature extraction and analysis.
Once the area which is suitable for feature extraction is determined, the iris region is optimized by removing deep shadows, portions covered by eyelids and reflective areas. This optimized region is also normalized in a rectangular block so that it has fixed dimensions which are “comparable” with other iris scans.
Note that it is not possible to compare the optimized Iris image itself with stored iris images. Rather what is stored in the biometric database are biometric templates which contains the encoded structure features of the iris which are extracted from the image after applying Daugman’s rubber sheet model.
Biometric template storage and/or matching
The encoded structural features, or biometric templates, are then stored in the biometric database at the time of enrollment of a person. If the iris scan has been taken for the purpose of authentication, then the biometric template for the scanned image is matched with biometric templates stored in the database.
Advantages of using biometric iris recognition
Superiority of iris as compared to other biometric traits
Various characteristics of iris which makes it a highly durable and reliable biometric for use in identity management solutions as compared to other biometric traits are-
- Irises are different for even identical twins.
- An iris has more than 266 degrees of freedom (i.e. the number of structure variable which can vary at the same time to make iris unique between any two individuals).
- Likelihood of damage or scratches is there in case of other biometric traits such as fingerprints. But iris is well protected behind the eyelid, cornea and aqueous humor which makes it very less susceptible to damage.
- Iris doesn’t degenerate with aging.
- Use of spectacles or contact lenses has no effect whatsoever on the automated reading of iris structures.
High scalability as it is ideal for handling large databases
Iris recognition systems are ideal for usage in big enterprises with large number of enrollments. It is in fact the only biometric authentication technology which is capable of working in the 1:n or exhaustive search mode.
Best search speeds among biometric authentication technologies
The one to many search mode is the fastest among all biometrics. Iris recognition based systems are thus the quickest in authenticating a person.
High-levels of safety against identity theft
Iris recognition systems convert the captured iris image into 512-byte encrypted biometric template. Thus reproducing a fake iris match or a spoof is near impossible.
Iris recognition technology is high in user convenience
Along with being a non-invasive, contact-less technology, iris recognition provides an intuitive user experience. The user just needs to look at the camera and the identification process gets completed smoothly.
Automated image capture technologies have been used successfully with iris recognition solutions which enhances the user convenience several notches.
Application areas of biometric iris recognition
Finance and banking
Iris recognition technology is being used in banks and financial organizations, replacing the cumbersome and time taking, pin based, and password based systems.
The use of iris recognition is expected to improve standards of financial services as the bankers will become free from time consuming document processing for identity proofs. This in turn will give them ample time and opportunity to concentrate on other important areas such as customer service.
Since banks generally crunch large amount of financial data and witness a large number of footfalls, data security assumes critical importance. Iris recognition systems thus become the most reliable and the most secure security systems for banks.
ISO 19092:2008 standard is used for governing the use of biometrics in the banking industry. Recognizing the prevalence of Biometric technology in the banking industry, the Geneva based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) established this security framework, ISO 19092: 2008. The standard also provides the architecture for its implementation and the scope of its use.
According to ISO, ISO 19092:2008 standards will help provide an ironclad authentication system for banking domain, in line with the requirements of the industry, plagued with increasing number of phishing attacks, compromising the password based security systems. Recognition Systems can be seamlessly incorporated into the banking system, circumventing the present system of passwords and pin-numbers, without having to build the banking application from scratch.
Healthcare and welfare
The healthcare industry faces is plagued with the persistent problem of establishing accurate patient identification. Healthcare management applications are turning towards biometric iris recognition technology. With its high accuracy and ease of use, iris recognition technology provides an option to identify proper insurance status that prevents fraudulence and duplicate medical records. The patients will benefit as well by getting correct treatments.
Furthermore, the use of iris recognition technology helps to implement effective authentication and authorization mechanisms in various areas of healthcare which include –
- Tracking the patient registration
- Treatment or passageways to different departments
- Repetitive treatment
- Checkup arrangement and scheduling
- Supporting national or private Health Insurance Cards
- Ambulant treatment document
Technologies such as iris recognition in patient identification are gaining momentum in healthcare settings not only for their ability to accurately identify a patient upon entry into a healthcare facility but also for their utility to quickly and accurately identify patients’ current location in the hospital among the various departments such as home health, the ER, and other mobile environments or in any other location prior to administering long term care.
To put an end to the theft of new-born infants, the iris recognition method has been deployed in many hospitals globally which has produced a wonderful result. This system allows the entry of only authorized persons into the baby’s stations – doctors, nurses and the baby’s mother by enrolling their iris scan. Only a glance into the camera is required which immediately generates a unique Iris Code which is specific to that person only. Later when the person needs entry, he has to present his iris to the scanner which matches it with the recorded irises in the database. Once the infant is released, its mother’s image is deleted and she can no longer gain access to the station.
Immigration and border control
Rising security concerns has led to radical changes in airport security systems all across the world. This has led to a growing interest in state of the art biometric and radio frequency identification technology (RFID).
Let us look at a few instances where biometric iris recognition system has been implemented for border control purposes –
The United States is one of the busiest travel destinations in the world with more than 500 million presenting themselves at the United States 422 ports of entry. The US government decided to act on this anomaly and ushered in an era that proposed to use Machine Readable Travelling documents. The new biometric aided airport security system received a further boost when the Intelligence Reform And Terrorism Prevention Act was passed in 2004. This law recommended iris recognition among other biometric recognition technologies.
Major Canadian Airports have been using Iris recognition systems to expedite passengers through customs. This facility uses an iris scanning device to record data and later on this data is validated with data stored in database taken at the time of enrollment. If there is match the traveler is allowed to enter the country’s border; however, if there is no match the traveler has the option to try the identification process again, failing which, he can present his documents at immigration for manual identification. The new system was tried out at Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto and Montreal and later on the system was implemented in Calgary, Winnipeg and Edmonton in 2005.
The Canada-US Fast Track Nexus program was perfect for frequent travelers between the United States and Canada who wanted quicker processing without having to get their documents manually processed every time. In order to expedite the process iris scanning devices were installed at checkpoints near the border and in airport lounges.
Netherlands, in Europe, opted for an iris recognition system that allowed passengers enrolled into the system to get fast tracked through immigrations without having to wait in queues. The authorities installed iris scanners at several vantage points allowing the traveler to validate live iris data with the data contained in the e-Visa.
The Heathrow airport, in London, conducted a demo trial with iris scanning devices installed at several vantage points in the airport lobby. These devices were linked to a central database that contained biometric information of frequent flyers. Each time the visitor looked into the scanner the biometric information was compared with that in the central database. The system was configured in such a manner that the doors would open only when there was a proper match. Studies that were carried out later proved the efficacy of the system. It was observed that the queue got shorter and there was a progressive streamlining of all airport security procedures.
Biometric technology has a long history with law enforcement agencies and many important identity management innovations have sprouted from this beneficial relationship. For more than a century law enforcement has been using biometric technology to track and identify criminals, helping to enhance public safety and facilitate justice.
Utilizing the security and accuracy of iris recognition technology, law enforcement agencies can save the backdrop of contemporary security challenges bordering on terrorism, high incidence of car theft, carjacking, kidnappings and other acts of crimes and criminality in our society.
2 prominent detention centers in USA and Australia have adopted iris recognition technology. These are –
- In 1996, Lancaster County Prison in Pennsylvania, USA became the first correctional facility to use iris scanning. Sometimes the facility would need to release a prisoner on short notice and could not wait for the fingerprint tests.
- The New South Wales Department of Corrective services, Australia uses fingerprinting and iris recognition technology to identify its inmates. The$ 1.8 million project will be spread over a period of 18 months and is expected to cover all 32 jails falling under the jurisdiction of the New South Wales Department of Corrective services. There are also plans to integrate the biometric security system with the inmate management system and external enforcement database like Crimtrac in the foreseeable future.
Point of sale and ATM
Hackers are targeting vulnerable POS terminals to compromise payment card data regularly. They are installing skimmers at terminals that can read and transmit data from swiped cards. Additionally, the retail sector is highly susceptible to cyber-crimes as shoppers mostly use their debit and credit cards for purchasing goods and services.
Let us look at a few establishments where biometric iris recognition technology is gaining traction –
After suffering substantial losses due to card loss, merchants have begun the process of integrating iris recognition technology in POS terminals to add another level of security to their systems and reduce fraud costs.
The installation of iris scanners in POS terminals in restaurants will reinforce the prospects of growth of this market. These technologies store the iris patterns of all employees and in the event of theft or unauthorized transaction can immediately isolate the employee at fault. As a result, the adoption of such biometric technology will protect merchants from fraudulent.
Iris based biometric ATM’s are more secure than conventional pin based ATM’s because it requires biometric verification which cannot be stolen, copied or faked. Pin based security systems can be compromised leading to losses for the consumer as well as the bank.
Also, the customers find it very tedious to remember passwords and pin numbers. Moreover, the task of requesting for new set of passwords is itself fraught with endless communication to and from between the customer and the bank leading to poor customer experience.
Hospitality and tourism
Tourism and hospitality industry has also started taking the first steps toward biometric iris recognition based authentication facilities. As part of such a system, guests have images of their irises recorded at the hotel concierge’s desk, and the images are stored in a database. When trying to gain access to the suite, a video-camera like device takes a picture of the iris and matches it to the database record. Guests’ iris images stored in the database are set to expire upon checkout.
Vanity Fair magazine reports how Boston’s New Line Hotel has used innovative Iris recognition technology to make their hotel’s safer for their guest. It has used one of its kind Iris Scanning Door Entry System for guest identification and access control. The system requires the guest to scan their right eye to gain access to the hotel’s accommodation. The employees of the hotel have to go through the same procedure at the beginning of each shift.
Iris recognition technology is durable, quantifiable, recordable and reliable. It thus fulfills the basic tenets of an ideal biometric system. The stored biometric template can be used for a person’s whole life as iris patterns are not susceptible to change, remaining stable for long periods of time. Enrollment is required only once in a lifetime, saving both time and money.
Biometric iris recognition systems are easy to use and create a hassle free security environment. Iris scanners can be used to protect high value locations by denying access to unwarranted visitors. Business and governmental organizations across the board have recognized the benefits of this system and have gone about implementing iris recognition based authentication systems in a big way.