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Iris Recognition

November 09, 2000

Imagine going to the bank and having the teller scan your iris instead of asking for picture ID. The iris, the colored portion of the eye around the pupil, is different enough from person to person that it can be used for identification - like a fingerprint. Iris-scanning technology uses standard photography to capture the pattern of color variation within the iris, which remains unchanged in people from the time they are 18 months old.

Recognition Process

A digital camera, at arm's length, captures an image of a person's eye. Each square millimeter of the iris contains about 3.4 bits of distinct information - including contraction furrows, filaments, freckles, pits, rings and striations.

The result is a pattern that provides thousands of unique points, which the system's software translates into a coded digital template.

A computer reads an iris in much the same way as it scans a bar code.

Iris-scanning systems store the data templates in a database for future reference. Templates cannot be decoded to create a pattern of a users eye so privacy and security are ensured.

Recognition Coding

A user attempting to gain access to a building, room or computer looks into a similar camera that takes another snapshot and repeats the process. The system compares the patterns in the database and provides access only if it finds an exact match.

Iris Recognition Facts

In the mid-1980s, two ophthalmologists discovered that the iris has patterns unique to each person. In 1994, another doctor developed iris-scanning technology suitable for identification purposes. The three founded a company, and a new industry was born.

It takes less than three seconds for an iris image to be captured.

Iris recognition can even tell the difference between identical twins or triplets.

Bank United of Texas became the first in the United States to offer iris-recognition technology at automated teller machines.

Iris identification is used at 11 banks outside the United States and is expected to eliminate the use of cards and passwords at cash machines and many types of financial transactions.

Researched by VICKI GALLAY/Los Angeles Times


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