Iris recognition for access control is gaining acceptance as one of the most secure and accurate biometric identification modes for security and surveillance applications. First used in the defense, military and government sectors, its use is spreading to the automotive, banking and finance, consumer electronics, health care, and travel and immigration sectors.[1]

Market researchers forecast that the growth of the global iris recognition market will exceed 18% annually through 2020.[2] Iris recognition is more expensive compared to security systems using swipe cards, access card keypads and tokens, but its accuracy is valued for highly sensitive security applications.

The iris is the colored ring around the pupil of the eye, and each person’s iris is unique. The color and pattern of each person’s eye are unique and even identical twins have different iris patterns. Unlike fingerprints, which can wear down over time, a person’s irises remain the same throughout their lifetime barring any injury or health-related damage such as cataracts. For this reason, iris recognition is becoming the preferred biometrics method.

Iris recognition biometrics use an advanced digital camera to photograph detailed images of the structure of the person’s iris and compares this image to an encrypted master image on file.[3] Once a master image is captured of a person’s iris, it can be used throughout the person’s lifetime for identification purposes.

From health care settings to airports and border control, iris recognition is proving to be well-suited as a security modality. In addition to its high level of accuracy and reliability, iris recognition is valued for being hygienic and non-invasive. The growth in cloud-based storage capabilities for master images enables quick matching of scanned iris images against the stored file.

Camera sensors and infrared light sources are being integrated into smart phones, tablets, smart glasses and other devices. These technological advancements provide light sources for iris identification and facial recognition biometric functions.

Advanced iris recognition systems are incorporating technology to detect eye movements and changes in scanned  images under various lighting conditions.[4] The industry is beginning to integrate eye tracking technology with iris recognition identification for use in consumer devices. This will enable eye-tracking to open apps or icons, move a character on a screen, and replace a mouse or trackpad to advance action in gaming applications.

[1] “Global Iris Recognition in Access Control Market 2016-2020,” press release issued by Research and Markets, Oct. 12, 2016. Available at: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-iris-recognition-in-access-control-market-to-grow-18-by-2020—adoption-of-cloud-based-biometrics-will-drive-growth—research-and-markets-300343445.html

[2] “Global Iris Recognition in Access Control Market 2016-2020,” press release issued by Research and Markets, Oct. 12, 2016. Available at: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-iris-recognition-in-access-control-market-to-grow-18-by-2020—adoption-of-cloud-based-biometrics-will-drive-growth—research-and-markets-300343445.html

[3] “Why is Iris Recognition Biometrics Becoming Dominant?” by Mehedi Hassan, M2sys blog, Jan. 4, 2017. Available at: http://www.m2sys.com/blog/biometric-hardware/iris-recognition-biometrics-becoming-popular/

[4] “How do iris scans work?” by Chris Woodford, Explain that Stuff blog, July 14, 2017. Available at: http://www.explainthatstuff.com/how-iris-scans-work.html

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