Iris Scan: A Key to Next-Level Identity Verification

Last Updated: 

March 23, 2024

Biometrics were initially developed for identification purposes in criminal investigations to detain potential criminals, but nowadays, biometrics are used for authentication of users accessing various services in both private and public sectors.

Biometrics include fingerprints, facial features, voice patterns, palm scans, and iris & retina patterns, however, iris & retina appear to be the most accurate and reliable approach for verification.

The iris recognition technology has gained significant interest owing to its accuracy, efficiency, and non-invasive nature, providing contactless identity verification of users. With false acceptance as low as one in 1.2 million individuals, the risk of falsely verifying the identity of an unauthorised person is significantly reduced.  

Key Takeaways on Iris Scans for Identity Verification

  1. Iris scan for identity verification: Leveraging the unique iris patterns, iris scan technology offers highly accurate and reliable biometric verification, making it a preferred method in various sectors.
  2. Superior accuracy and efficiency: With false acceptance rates as low as one in 1.2 million individuals, iris recognition technology provides swift and contactless identity verification, enhancing security measures.
  3. Evolution of iris recognition: Originating from 1936, the development of iris recognition technology has led to its widespread adoption in sectors such as border control, healthcare, and access control systems.
  4. Automated iris recognition process: Utilising specialised cameras and software algorithms, iris recognition analyses intricate iris patterns to create unique iris templates for precise identity verification.
  5. Distinctive features of iris recognition: The stability of iris patterns throughout life, non-invasiveness, and resistance to duplication or spoofing make iris recognition a robust biometric verification method.
  6. Challenges and limitations: Despite its advantages, the implementation of iris scan technology may pose challenges due to cost, privacy concerns, and user reluctance, necessitating stringent security measures.
  7. Future outlook: Iris scan technology is poised for growth, with continuous advancements expected to enhance biometric verification systems and ensure a secure authentication environment.
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Unlocking the Mystery: What is an Iris Scan? 

Iris recognition is a form of biometric verification that refers to verifying the identity of individuals based on the iris, a round-shaped, coloured eye portion. Each person has a unique iris pattern, which makes it a suitable and reliable form of identity verification. Iris scan has found applications in multiple sectors including border control, airport security, banks, financial institutions, healthcare, and access control systems. 

The iris scan technology plays a crucial role in enrolling citizens' identities in national ID programs, securing financial transactions, and improving access control measures in corporate sectors. Iris detection verifies the identity of an individual one-in-million within seconds and also eliminates the need to remember complex passwords and carry ID cards. 

Tracing the Evolution of Iris Recognition 

The concept of using iris patterns for identity verification traces back to 1936 when ophthalmologist Frank Burch put forward the idea of employing iris patterns for the distinction of individuals. Following the concept, a professor at Cambridge University, John Duagman, developed an algorithm in 1987 to verify and match iris patterns of people for accurate identity verification.

The iris recognition algorithms till now are utilised for identity verification purposes in various jurisdictions finding applications in diverse sectors. 

Iridian Technologies, Inc., an international engineering company specialising in authentication technology, made the iris recognition technology publicly available in 1994. Various companies and businesses have developed their iris recognition software and systems for accurate verification of users.

Due to its accuracy and quick verification, iris recognition is being incorporated in many sectors such as access control systems, healthcare, e-passport issuance, airport security, border control, and many more. The United Arab Emirates has employed iris scan technology to screen all visitors arriving in the sovereign via land, sea, or air. 

How Does Iris Recognition Technology Work? 

Iris recognition technology works as an automated approach and analyses intricate iris patterns, using software algorithms and video camera technology coupled with infrared light.

The technology makes use of a specialised camera, which captures high-contrast images of a person’s iris patterns, using both visible and near-infrared light. The camera focuses on the eye, and identifies the centre of the pupil, edges of the pupil, and iris, along with eyelids & eyelashes.

The collected information is sent to iris recognition software, which analyses the information and creates an iris template, which is a code specific to each iris pattern. This iris pattern is further utilised for accurately verifying the identity of a person by matching with a known database. 

Unique Features of Iris Scan Technology

Iris recognition technology is a preferred biometric method for identity verification and is employed by various public & private sectors.

Here is a list of distinct features of iris recognition technology 

  1. Among biometric verification methods, iris recognition stands out for its exceptional accuracy and quick verification process
  2. The iris pattern almost remains unchanged throughout life unlike other biometrics like fingerprints, facial features, and voice patterns that change with the ageing process
  3. As both left and right eyes possess varying iris patterns, verification can be performed separately for each eye 
  4. Iris detection also accurately recognises the distinction between the twins 
  5. Iris recognition can work in the low light or even in the night, using infrared light 
  6. Iris detection is non-invasive, as the verification is performed without even making any contact, enhancing user experience and ensuring hygiene 
  7. The iris patterns are almost impossible to duplicate or spoof, actively reducing identity theft or unauthorised access 
  8. False acceptance and false rejection rates are very low, with overall accuracy of 99.93% 

Challenges & Limitations  

As iris patterns are unique to every person, even both the left and right eye have distinctive iris patterns, offering accurate identity verification and comes with numerous advantages. However, the technology has certain limitations as well.

The installation of specialised hardware and software can be overpriced, thus challenging small businesses and organisations that have very limited resources. Privacy concerns are raised with the usage and storage of iris patterns, users are concerned about how their data is implemented and what measures are there to ensure safety.

The businesses and organisations integrating iris authentication are mandated to develop stringent safety and security measures to preserve the integrity of biometric data. The most potential limitation of iris scan technology is user reluctance, as a majority of individuals flag up issues about the invasion of privacy and reliability of technology. 

Wrap-up 

As iris scan technology accurately verifies the identity of users with low false acceptance & false rejection rates, it is anticipated to grow in the near future. Despite its limitations, multiple sectors like cross border security, access control systems, and healthcare, are incorporating the technology to enhance the authentication process. With continuous advancements and innovations, the iris scan technology is projected to play a crucial role in developing biometric verification systems, promising a secure environment. 

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