Right now, most smartphones use either a password or fingerprint for authentication purposes -- but imagine being able to unlock your mobile device simply by looking at it, or authorizing a payment with a quick glance. This is what iris-scanning technology could bring to the mobile space, and it might happen faster than you think.
Your eye fingerprint
Iris authentication is one type of biometric authentication that verifies an individual by the complex pattern of the person’s iris — the thin, circular structure that surrounds the pupil. Like a fingerprint, a person’s iris pattern is difficult to forge and convenient to use. And because the composition of the iris changes very little after the individual is past the age of two, there is a sense of long-term security that other authentication methods cannot provide.
To enable the use of the iris authentication system, 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 is then registered and used to verify matches.
Use in smartphones
Iris-scanning technology has long been considered to be one of the most secure methods of authentication and identification, thanks to the unique characteristics of the iris. And because of its high levels of accuracy and low levels of false acceptance and rejection rates, it has become ubiquitous in areas such as information security, physical access security, ATMs and airport security.
More recently, however, companies like Fujitsu have been developing iris authentication systems with the appropriate size and performance capability that would allow them to be used in smartphones. In March, Fujitsu presented a prototype of the iris scanner that unlocks a smartphone at the Mobile World Congress. The technology consisted of a thin lightweight hardware that was grafted onto a regular smartphone. And just last month, Fujitsu released its latest smartphone, the Arrows NX F-04G, which is the world’s first mobile device equipped with built-in iris authentication technology. The phone is only being sold in the Japanese market at this point.
A new user experience
Mobile iris authentication technology is expected to offer an entirely new security experience, allowing the smartphone’s owner to unlock the phone, access certain apps, enter password protected Web sites and authorize payments with a glance.
This ultimately leads to a new level of usability. Iris authentication eliminates the trouble of having to use one’s hands to control the smartphone when it is inconvenient to do so -- for example, when wearing gloves or carrying items. Iris-scanning technology is not only more convenient in these instances, but faster.
Individuals will also no longer need to remember a variety of usernames and passwords. Iris authentication could easily be used to log into Web services without having to input an ID or password, allowing simple and secure access. This has increasing relevance as security for both personal and business matters continues to rise.
Potential benefits for mobile commerce and advertisers
By increasing the level of security and eliminating the chore of logging in, or even entering (and remembering) passwords and pins, iris authentication technology would remove at least some of the steps in the mobile commerce process. Consumers who then feel more secure and more comfortable with using mobile devices for making purchases would be more likely to engage in mobile commerce for virtual or physical goods from their mobile devices.
While advertisers themselves are less likely to leverage the iris authentication technology due to privacy issues, they may still see big benefits, because the underlying mobile applications will have a more precise view of the user -- for example, the disambiguation of which member of the household, who is currently using the family’s tablet.
As mobile users become more immersed in the mobile e-commerce world, they may become more receptive to advertisements, particularly those that are targeted correctly. This only underscores the need for just how important it is to have a mobile commerce strategy with clever, insightful and, most of all, impactful advertising.