Iris Biometric System



Iris scan biometrics employs the unique characteristics and features of the human iris in order to verify the identity of an individual. The iris is the area of the eye where the pigmented or coloured circle, usually brown or blue, rings the dark pupil of the eye. [4]






  1. The Need for a Biometric System
  2. What is special about the iris?
  3. The Technology
  4. Fooling the System
  5. Applications
  6. References
  7. See Also
  8. External Links




The Need for a Biometric System



Passwords are easily broken or forgotten. Security cards can be lost or stolen. Therefore there is an increased need for some kind of a reliable identification scheme.

The biometric system provides personal recognition based on “who you are” as opposed to or in conjunction with “what you know” (password) or “what you have” (security card). Biometric security offers a different method of authentication by using something that is far more unique than a password – ourselves. [1] A biometric is a physical characteristic such as facial structure, eye color, voice, iris pattern, and fingerprint.




What is special about the iris?



The iris of the eye has been described as the ideal part of the human body for biometric identification for several reasons:


  • The Iris is an extremely data-rich physical structure.
  • The details of each iris are phenotypically unique, that is, no two are exactly alike, not even among twins, not even in your own two eyes.
  • The patterns of the Iris do not change and are the same throughout life
  • The Iris is an internal organ which is physically protected against damage by the cornea. This distinguishes it from fingerprints, which can be difficult to recognize after years of certain types of manual labor.
  • The patterns of the Iris are externally visible, even from a distance.




The Technology



Iris identification can be broken down into four fundamental steps:


  1. First, a person stands in front of the iris identification system, generally between one and three feet away, while a wide angle camera calculates the position of their eye. 


  1. A second camera zooms in on the eye and takes a black and white image. 


  1. Once the image is captured, the iris' elastic connective tissue-called the trabecular meshwork is analyzed, processed into an optical "fingerprint," and translated into a digital form. [2]



  1. Finally, the digital Iris Code is checked against a previously stored 'reference template' in the database.




Fooling the System



Is there any way to fool the system? Researchers attempted to do this by creating contact lenses with irides printed on them. The system had no trouble spotting the fakes. Some of the newer drug treatments for glaucoma include changes in iris pigmentation among their side effects. This should not be a problem since iris recognition systems rely on monochrome images, the developers say. [2]






Amsterdam Schiphol Airport was the first to use iris recognition to secure border control. It began using its automated border passage system in October 2001. That system combines iris recognition technology and an advanced smart card.

An iris recognition system is also being evaluated at London's Heathrow airport. Frequent transatlantic travelers on British Airways and Virgin now use the EyeTicket Jetstream system to speed them through passport control at the world's busiest airport. The system is similar to that in use at Schiphol. A similar system is in place in Germany's Frankfurt Airport. While the North American experience has so far been limited to the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, plans are now underway to install similar systems at JFK in New York, Dulles in Washington, DC and at 14 international airports in Canada. [2]

Future applications will include e-commerce, information security, authorization, building entry, automobile ignition, forensic applications, computer network access, PINs, and personal passwords.



1.       Biometrics for Network Security

2.       Retina and Iris Identification

3.       Iris and Retinal Identification

4.       Biometric Education – Iris Recognition


See also:


  1. Biometrics
  2. Iris Recognition



External Links:


  2. Look Me in the Eye
  3. IBM and Schiphol bring biometric iris scanning to airlines, airports




Created by: Azadeh Kiani

Last Modified: April 6th, 2007