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Forget fingerprints: Your iris is your new identity

Robert L. Mitchell | Oct. 1, 2013
Iris recognition finally seems ready to break into the mainstream.

In Amman, people must present a government ID when banking — a driver's license isn't sufficient — but not everyone remembers to bring their IDs when they make a trip to the bank. So Cairo Amman Bank gave its customers the option of registering with its iris recognition system and using it at both the teller window and at ATMs. Customers initially had concerns, such as whether the system would somehow affect their eyes, so the bank put out a flyer with answers to common questions. Today half of its customers use the technology.

Amman Bank
Users of this iris imaging camera don't need to present any other form of identification when visiting Cairo Amman Bank's 100 ATMs in Jordan. The camera, the EyeTrust from IrisGuard, can operate at a distance of up to 16 inches from the subject and sells for $2,500.

The system isn't just more secure, Al-Bakri says, it's more efficient. With iris recognition, the average time per transaction at the teller window is one minute versus four minutes using traditional authentication methods. As more customers opted for iris recognition, the bank found that it could reduce branch staffing levels from four tellers to two.

The latest cameras are smaller and less expensive than the models the bank deployed with its first system a few years ago, Al-Bakri says, but they're still not cheap — and neither was the integration project required to get the cameras, ATMs and core banking systems to work together. Al-Bakri declined to discuss costs for competitive reasons. But IrisGuard senior vice president and COO Joe O'Carroll did say that the cost of a fully integrated vertical market deployment varies depending on the systems that must be connected. The average cost ranges from $3 to $6 per bank customer, he says.

"But the cost is irrelevant when compared to the risk you're facing when you use a card and password," Al-Bakri says. "Look at what you're gaining from the system, not just what you're paying for it."

Faster gates at Gatwick
Speed and ease of use were key reasons why Gatwick Airport in London added a passenger authentication system that uses iris recognition technology a little more than two years ago. The airport has a departure lounge where both international and domestic passengers congregate prior to boarding. "We had to ensure that people who are traveling domestically stick to their flights and don't swap tickets," says David Rees, IT program lead at the airport.

Now users scan their boarding passes at the security gate, and a video system on a "bio pole" tells them where to look as a camera takes a facial photo and an iris image from a distance of up to two meters (6.5 feet). Once the self-service process has completed, the gate opens automatically. The system then uses the iris data to authenticate passengers at each gate as they line up to board their respective planes.

 

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