Friday TechMunch: Are We Really Ready For Iris Recognition Technology?

This month we saw news of the Fidelys iris recognition device entering the market – the first of its kind to reach the level of sophistication, and at a price point low enough to be a viable prospect for the commercial market.

This is a major milestone for iris recognition in the drive towards biometrics working their way into everyday life. Along with wearable tech, biometrics are set to replace passwords and mobile as the next step forward in technology for consumers and businesses, and organisations are already scrambling to establish prototypes and develop systems that will see this trend enter our lives sooner than we think.

In fact just this month, fingerprints were identified as the preferred biometric security measure after passwords in UK banking, and last month Samsung hinted that iris recognition will be incorporated into its Exynos smartphone. Looking into the near future, SITA Aero, the air transport industry systems integrator, has developed a prototype border control system that promises free-flowing passage of travelers through customs, and would see passports replaced with a one-time registration and authentication process.

Iris recognition technology is non-invasive, accurate and has the potential to solve many issues relating to passwords, privacy and authentication. It creates a level of personal security around our information that we haven’t experienced before, in an age where privacy and data security is of increasing concern.

Not to be confused with retinal scanning (which involves a beam of low-energy infrared light being shone directly into the pupil for several seconds, which is significantly more invasive, time consuming and uncomfortable), iris recognition is widely acknowledged as being one of the most secure methods of authenticating identity, as it is extremely difficult to replicate and more unique (excuse the oxymoron) than a fingerprint.

The question remains, however, of how consumers will react to surrendering such personal identification to companies, given that we don’t yet fully know how it will be used by businesses and governments?

Will we be marketed directly to as we enter shops with products personalised according to our history of purchases that were paid for and authenticated by iris recognition, and will modified sunglasses and contact lenses enter the market as a way to stay “off the grid”?

Marketers, advertisers and security professionals no doubt rejoice at the prospect, but do people really want their eyeballs to become walking records of everything they’ve ever purchased?

The entry of sophisticated, secure biometrics technology to the commercial market will set alight a blazing trend of adoption across many industries, but businesses need to tread softly when they introduce it to customers. They’re unlikely to turn a blind eye to unwelcome invasions of privacy.