Most smartphones require some sort of password or pattern input to unlock them, whilst some have voice print recognition, and a few – such as Apple's iPhone 5S and Samsung's Galaxy S5 – even use fingerprint scanning. But Fujitsu claims to have gone one better by introducing iris pattern recognition on its latest prototype smartphone on show at Mobile World Congress (MWC).
Using the complex pattern of the iris in a person’s eye is a particularly effective form of biometric authentication, as it is as unique to an individual as are one’s fingerprints. And, because the composition of the iris changes very little after someone is older than two-years of age, it is largely unaffected by the passage of time, providing much greater long-term security than a password.
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To set up the system and read the unique iris pattern, infrared LED light is shone into the user's eyes and a front-facing infrared camera is used to take a picture of the irises, which it then stores for use in later verification. The iris authentication system then retrieves those patterns whenever the phone is to be unlocked in future.
The technology behind this iris authentication relies on a Fujitsu-developed, bespoke, high-output infrared LED illumination system, along with a customized infrared camera. Allied with some smart camera control technology and ActiveIRIS high-speed biometric-authentication technology from Delta ID, the Fujitsu prototype is claimed to allow fast unlocking.
Fujitsu also claims that the system can be used at regular phone viewing distances, not just within the 10 cm (4 in) space that many current iris recognition systems – such as those in high-security buildings – require. The infrared LEDs providing the light that shine on the retina have also been declared safe by the manufacturer, who claims that it meets the photobiological safety testing standard IEC 62471.
Also on display at MWC this year is the ZTE Grand S3, which incorporates eye-scanning technology of a different type. It uses the pattern of blood vessels in the whites of a person's eye for identification, rather than the iris scanning technology of the Fujitsu. As a result, Fujitsu claims that its system is quicker off the mark and takes less time to verify a user via their retina.
Fujitsu claims that its iris authentication system may be used in smartphones and tablets in the not-too-distant future, as well as a varied array of similar applications wherever high-tech, high-security solutions are required. In this vein, the company says that it is undertaking continuous research and improvement on this verification technology and methods to extend its use. All going to plan, Fujitsu claims that its target for commercial release of this technology should be sometime within the next 12 months.
The video below, whilst only available in Japanese, does manage to demonstrate much of the iris authentication system in action.