BARCELONA: Biometric security is nothing new. For years enterprises have experimented with fingerprint and eye scanners as a means to lock down sensitive office or lab areas.
However, it's only recently that biometric security checkers began to start appearing in mobile devices.
While Apple was the first to bring the technology to the masses with its Touch ID fingerprint scanner, Fujitsu has been experimenting with biometric security checkers for quite some time and in the past year integrated its custom Palm Vein scanner into a number of its ultrabooks.
At MWC, Fujitsu showed off a smartphone prototype boasting an iris authentication lock that could revolutionise mobile device security.
The technology lets users register their iris ring pattern, which is unique to each human, and use it to unlock devices or access sensitive work systems from their smartphone or tablet, simply by looking at them.
How it works
The iris authentication system we saw was built into a prototype smartphone Fujitsu claims is already "a few steps behind the version its developing in its test labs".
Authentication is a two-stage process. First, the system shines a specific waveband of infrared light at the user's face using the high-output infrared LED and an infrared camera takes a series of photos. The smartphone then compares the captured iris patterns to stored user profiles and unlocks when it finds a match.
Setting it up
After clicking on the Iris registration application, we were instructed to position our eyes within two on-screen circles and hold the phone steady while it scanned our irises.
The entire process took around 20 seconds to complete.
Once set up we attempted to use the technology to wake the prototype smartphone from sleep.
Fujitsu claims the technology works at distances up to 25cm. We tested the prototype 10 times at different distances between 10cm and 25cm from our face, and not only did the prototype recognise and unlock to our face within three seconds at each attempt, it also refused to unlock when faced with other people's irises.
Sadly the prototype unit had a bare minimum of applications of the Iris Authentication tool so we didn't get to see how it would work for more advanced tasks, like say approving in app purchases or NFC payments.
Fujitsu says it is "conducting ongoing research and development on this iris authentication technology and ways to broaden its scope, with the goal of a commercial implementation during fiscal 2015".
While we only got to see an early prototype of the technology, we were impressed with Fujitsu's smartphone iris scanner.
It's no secret that most smartphone users are fairly lax when it comes to mobile security. Even Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer openly admitted she doesn't have a password lock on her smartphone because "it slows things down".
With this in mind, we can see the iris scanner being a great security solution that could even entice the laziest of employees to lock down their handset.
Hopefully some smartphone device makers will share our enthusiasm and begin working to integrate the iris scanner into their handsets in the near future.
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