Iris Scanning: The Newest Addition to Apple's Biometric Roadmap?

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jan 21, 2014.

  1. macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Over the course of the last several years, Apple has begun to take an intense interest in biometrics as a way to improve the security and accessibility of its devices. Apple purchased sensor company AuthenTec in 2012 and quickly incorporated its fingerprint-sensing technology into the Touch ID fingerprint scanner that debuted in the iPhone 5s.

    Touch ID marked Apple's first foray into biometrics, confirming user identity via fingerprint, but the company may have much bigger plans in mind for biometric sensors in future devices. Biometrics are said to play a key role in Apple's iWatch, and Apple may even expand beyond fingerprint technology, as the company has reportedly taken a new interest in iris scanning.

    While little is known about Apple's investigation into iris scanning, it is a promising biometric technology that's already widely used for identification and authentication purposes.

    The Science of Iris Recognition
    Each person's iris, or the circular colored muscle of the eye, contains a complex and random pattern that is unique to each individual. Because the differences within irises can be seen from a short distance away, iris recognition can be accomplished by using a high-resolution camera that includes near-infrared light to highlight and capture the structure of the iris.

    Once an image (or video) is captured, algorithms can be used to identify the patterns within an iris to determine the identity of an individual. Because an iris is as unique as a fingerprint, it is a highly reliable method of determining identity. The chance of two individuals having the same iris pattern is 1 in 10 to the 78th power and because iris scanners deal with upwards of 2,000 data points (compared to approximately 100 in a fingerprint) an iris scan rarely results in false positives.

    During an initial iris scan, the eye is scanned and an encoded representation of the image is stored within a database. Later, when the eye is scanned again, the new encoding is compared to those in the database, verifying identity.

    Iris scanning is a newer technology than retina scanning, which required a bright light to illuminate a retina. Iris scanning, which uses both ambient light and near-infrared light, is less invasive.

    How the Technology is Used
    Currently, iris scanning is largely used for identity verification and has been adopted by several government agencies and major companies. For example, at the Amsterdam Airport in Schiphol, iris scanning is used to allow passengers to cross the border without having to produce a passport.

    An iris recognition machine at the Schiphol Airport
    The United Arab Emirates has been successfully using IrisGuard iris scanning at border crossing points since 2001 and has lauded the technology for being both fast and accurate for identification purposes.

    Major technology companies, like Google, use iris scanning technology for security purposes. Google restricts entry to its data centers and its Google X labs via iris scanners. Bank of America also uses the technology at its corporate headquarters in North Carolina, with employees let into the building after an iris scan.

    Advancing Technology
    Many companies are working on iris scanning technology and some important advancements have been made in recent years. For example, SRI International has developed an Iris on the Move Biometric Identification System that is able to read irises at a distance in many lighting conditions, even while subjects are moving.

    Another company, EyeLock, makes several iris scanning products for corporate and home use. EyeLock's recently debuted Myris is designed to be used at home with a computer as a way to replace traditional passwords.

    The EyeLock Myris home iris scanning device
    Earlier this year, a company called AOptix debuted the Stratus MX, a handheld iris scanner that fits over an iPhone 4/4s to capture both iris scans and fingerprint images, and IriTech has developed a way to incorporate an iris scanner into a smartphone using a single camera.

    Apple and Iris Scanning
    Iris scanning is a function that could likely be built directly into the iPhone or iPad's front-facing camera. It is impossible to predict how Apple might utilize iris scanning, but based on other use cases, it is likely that such technology would be positioned as way to verify user identity, possibly replacing Touch ID. Like Touch ID, iris scanning could be used as a convenience measure, unlocking an iPhone when an individual's eye is successfully scanned.

    Iris scanning could also be used in conjunction with Touch ID, for two-factor authentication that could help Apple turn the convenience factor of Touch ID into a more secure feature that could be used beyond password replacement.

    Ultimately, Iris scanning has the same potential uses as Touch ID. Should Apple expand on its implementation of biometrics, both Touch ID and iris scanning could possibly be used as system-wide password replacement and to make purchases or payments (both online and in-store when combined with technology like iBeacons).

    Iris Scanning vs. Fingerprint Scanning
    While iris scanning and fingerprint scanning are both forms of biometric identification, iris scanning has some notable benefits. Unlike a fingerprint scanner, which requires physical contact with a device, an eye can be scanned from several feet away.

    A notable downside to Apple's Touch ID is that it cannot detect moist fingers, a problem that would be solved if no physical contact was necessary for authentication. Ridge patterns on fingerprints can also be affected by factors like cuts and dirt.

    In addition to being accurate, iris scanning is also fast. Current iris scanners used for the identification of multiple individuals can process 50 people per minute from multiple feet away as they walk at a normal pace.

    Apple's Touch ID can take several seconds to recognize a fingerprint, and it is likely that an iris scan would be both faster and more accurate as it can be done from a distance and while a person is in motion.

    As with any technology, there are drawbacks Apple would need to overcome to add iris scanning to its devices. Most scanners require decent lighting, and an iris scan can be affected by alcohol consumption and eye surgeries, such as the one performed for cataracts.

    Iris scanners can also sometimes be fooled by high quality eye images, but some scanners can overcome this with a flash of light designed to make a pupil dilate.

    Public opinion is likely the biggest hurdle Apple will face should it implement iris scanning as a means of identification. The company faced scrutiny over the security and storage of Touch ID data and iris scanning could be an even bigger issue as it can be used covertly.

    A portable iris scanner in use in Baghdad.​

    Privacy concerns and infrastructure issues have prevented the Department of Homeland Security from installing iris scanners at U.S. airports and the American Civil Liberties Union has also raised concerns about eye-tracking technology, calling it a "privacy threat." According to Jay Stanley of the ACLU, iris scans are more of a threat than other biometrics because they can be acquired at a distance and without a subject's knowledge.

    Iris Scanning in Smartphones
    In early January, Samsung EVP of Mobile Lee Young Hee revealed Samsung was investigating iris recognition technology for possible inclusion in the Galaxy S5, but recent rumors have suggested the Galaxy S5 will not come equipped with iris scanning, likely due to the fact that the technology is not yet ready for smartphones.

    According to a report from The Korea Herald, the technology that would allow iris scanning to be used in smartphones and other portable devices may still be a few years off. An iris scanning iPhone would likely require a higher-resolution front-facing camera that combines the current camera with the iris scanning ability and a near-infrared light. While such technology does exist, allowing a single camera to capture both iris scans and normal images, it remains in the prototype stage.

    Anthony Antolino, chief marketer at EyeLock, a major producer of current iris scanners, expects to see the company's technology embedded into smartphones, tablets, and PCs by 2015, replacing user names and passwords.

    If Apple plans to continue to pursue iris scanning for a future product, it is unlikely to be included in the next wave of device updates. Iris recognition does, however, appear to have a lot of potential as a technology suited to Apple devices as it could go a long way towards making iOS devices both simpler and more convenient to use.

    Article Link: Iris Scanning: The Newest Addition to Apple's Biometric Roadmap?
  2. macrumors 68030


    Apr 13, 2010
    Bedfordshire, UK
  3. macrumors 6502

    May 26, 2004
    Dekalb IL
    Whoa. Wasn't expecting such a close up pic of an eyeball.
  4. macrumors 68000


    Mar 7, 2012
    at least this will help when you're drunk text. the phone would stay locked.
  5. macrumors 6502


    Apr 4, 2010
    So instead of cutting off your finger to unlock your iPhone, you'll loose an eyeball instead. :/


    LOL. You're drunk, put down the phone.
  6. macrumors 6502


    Jan 20, 2014
    Sure, why not! But it's still a couple generation away. I won't hold my breath for it.
  7. macrumors 65816


    Aug 15, 2010
    Just before someone claims we're all sheep for suddenly finding this innovative and amazing now that Apple is doing it:

    Dear Apple, no thanks, sounds like a lousy idea.
  8. macrumors member

    Sep 12, 2011
    Pretty cool, if you zoom in on the pic of the eyeball, you can see the reflection of the person taking the picture of the eyeball.
  9. macrumors 68030


    Aug 10, 2010
    macrumors apparently
  10. macrumors 6502a

    Old Muley

    Jan 6, 2009
    Titletown USA
    For some reason "Minority Report" comes to mind.
  11. macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2013
    Indeed, this would definitely be a feature, not a downside :p
  12. Guest

    Sky Blue

    Jan 8, 2005
  13. macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2010
  14. macrumors newbie


    Oct 29, 2013
    I'm not sure how I feel about the incorporation of such technology, nonetheless, wouldn't something like this be better (or just as well) suited to one's laptop or desktop machine?

    I feel it would be nice to see some of the security features of iOS such as Touch ID go over to the Mac line.
  15. macrumors regular

    Nov 21, 2009
    I don't see how this can be anything other than inconvenient, or a at least, no more convenient than TouchID. The great thing about touch ID is that I can get my phone unlocked while pulling it out of my pocket. You don't get the same convenience with an iris scanner.
  16. macrumors 6502


    Oct 12, 2011
    New Zealand
    Great, middle of summer when my allergies have rendered my eyes blood red I'll be stuck without a phone.
  17. macrumors 68000


    Jul 6, 2012
    Kissimmee, FL
  18. macrumors 68030

    Mar 4, 2011
    Are criminals risking attempted murder to steal an iPhone? Lopping off someone's finger is a worse crime than stealing the phone itself.

    Even before TouchID... were there cases of holding up someone at gunpoint to steal their phone... while asking for their passcode?

    I know iPhones are highly targeted items... but what happens now that there is TouchID/passcode and your iTunes password to re-activate the phone?
  19. macrumors 6502


    Sep 4, 2012
    Saint Louis, MO, USA
    This would really put Samsung in their place, I think. Their face unlock feature is pretty cool but this would blow it out of the water.
  20. macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2008
    Tokyo, Japan

    Agreed. For now finger print scanning and soon iris scanning are optional giving the user the option to use their passcode instead but how long will it be until these are mandatory?

    Also how long until the cameras on Apple devices take your iris print without you knowing? Creepy as all heck IMO.
  21. macrumors 6502a

    Sep 4, 2010
    Obviously, they're only doing this because Samsung is rumored to be working on it for their upcoming Galaxy S models...

    See what I did there?
  22. macrumors 6502a


    Aug 30, 2013
    If Apple allows me to have a file system to have content that needs protecting then I'll take two step simultanious recognition.
  23. macrumors 68030

    Mar 4, 2011
    But Samsung invented iris scanning...

  24. macrumors 6502a


    Aug 30, 2013
    Apple have probably been looking at this for some time
  25. macrumors 68020


    Jan 25, 2009
    Fingerprints are not enough now?
    Do we need both fingerprints and retina scanning? :confused:

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