Private Eye

At airports, border crossings, and hospitals, iris recognition systems are gaining wider use. But they tend to be fixed and clunky, requiring people to stand in specific spots so that wall-mounted cameras can scan their irises. At the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Automation in Beijing, China, electrical engineer Tieniu Tan’s group has developed a portable system that could enable security guards to scan people in line; it could also provide cell phones and other mobile devices with built-in authentication systems. Tan’s handheld scanner uses near-infrared light to illuminate the eye, while an embedded camera captures images of the iris. Using speech synthesis software, the handheld can even tell the subject to move closer or farther away as needed. Novel image-processing algorithms select the clearest iris image-one that’s in focus and unblocked by eyelashes-and analyze its tiny freckly patterns. Tests show the system is more than 99 percent accurate-as good as today’s best stationary models. Some of the software runs on a desktop computer, but Tan is developing a completely portable system through a Beijing-based startup, Pattek. Its first application: authenticating users who log onto laptops, handhelds, and ATM machines.

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from undefined

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

You've read of free articles this month.