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iris blooming in the payment world

Eye Scanning Authentication

Identifying people using iris scanning is a daily occurrence all over the world, with this specific type of biometric authentication boasting both ease of use and a significant level of security. Irises are, just like fingerprints, unique to each individual but are also considerably more difficult to forge than a person's fingerprint.

This has made iris scanning a much-desired security measure in fields ranging from healthcare and finances to immigration and is also the reason this type of biometrics is often adopted as part of national personal identification systems, potentially soon fully replacing fingerprints.


Step Up to the Scanner... or Not

Iris authentication systems employ complex pattern recognition software that captures an image of your iris. While some systems will only check the iris of a single eye, other systems require the scanning of both irises. It is then compared to the image the system already has in its archive, one that is associated with your identity.

Early iris-scanning systems required you to position your eye right up to the scanner but today many iris scanners work at a distance, allowing for smoother operation of doors and locks in hospitals and financial institutions, border crossings or security checkpoints in prisons or other high-security areas.

Stable and Scalable

The benefits of iris scanning are many and have a broad appeal. The aforementioned uniqueness of each individual's irises not only provides a strong security measure but also reduces the risk of false rejections: a recently conducted study on biometric authentication measures found that iris scanning boasts the lowest rate of false rejections - a mere 1.8%. 

Furthermore, since the modern eye scanner can also detect whether the iris is moving or stationary, the iris-scanner-based security system cannot be tricked by attempting authentication using an unconscious personIris scanning is also a highly scalable security measure - it doesn't matter whether you wish to provide security for a personal project, one involving ten people, a hundred people or will be dealing with millions of persons.

Eyes As Passports?

To replace passports completely with iris scanners, any border crossing in the world will need to have the technology to check the eyes of travelers. Installing costly equipment is one thing for airports in affluent countries but what about small ones in developing countries? Any airport, seaport, river crossing, or ground border checkpoint on earth would require iris scanning technology... so the chances are small your eyes will be passports anytime soon.

The technology can be easily adapted to any environment and frequency of use.  Also, since all the system requires is for a person to briefly stand still in front of a camera, the cost of training personnel in its use is low.

Quick to Adapt to the Real World

One of the recently more interesting uses of iris scanning on a large scale has been taking place in refugee camps in the Middle East. 

There the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) placed in use an iris biometric authentication system to help refugees receive help and make payments faster and with increased convenience. 

According to the World Food Program, the iris scanners have significantly improved the United Nations' aid distribution network in the affected areas, getting food and other necessities to refugees with greater ease and it also removed the need for refugees to wait in long lines to receive their monthly monetary aid - now their accounts are tied to iris scanners and the much needed aid is received literally in the blink of an eye.

Irises Help Fight Crime 

Biometric iris scanning in this area has also reduced corruption and black market selling of relief supplies and commodities and it also helped UNHCR and other relief organizations greatly when it came to refugee children.

Since fingerprints often change until puberty (the reason why fingerprints as part of national personal identification system can be used only once the person has reached 14 years of age), an iris scan is a much safer method for proper identification of refugee children (and adult refugees as well).

Pay with a blink

And what about iris scanning in payments? Samsung has integrated the iris scanning camera in their phones, starting from Galaxy Note 7, for stronger authentication. 

The iris camera uses a special picture filter to receive and identify the irises' mirrored images from an infrared light at the other end of the screen.

This authentication method can also be set up for adding another layer of security to Samsung Pay.

There are still no official numbers on how many people use this authentication method on Samsung Pay, but after the news of hackers fooling the phone's scanner, many people were hesitant to use it. 

The payments platform is integrated into the car and allows the driver to pay for a wide array of goods and services at everything from toll booths to gas stations to drive-thrus.

The driver can initiate a transaction from the SiriusXM e-wallet via a voice command or the dashboard touch screen, after which the catchy-named EyeLock system authenticates the payment by scanning the driver's iris.

The EyeLock iris scanner technology didn't start with cars and it may have many diverse uses in the future. SiriusXM previously integrated it into Genetec's Synergis access control platform and it also found use in ViaTouch Media's vending machines. 

EyeLock becoming a part of their Vicki smart vending machine was a step many did not expect but that proved a success: it wasn't used for payment authentication but for tracking the gaze of people using the machine and then making personalized recommendations to customers if an iris scan confirmed them as registered users of the vending machine.

SiriusXM's implementation of iris scanners is just one of many occurrences of this aspect of biometric technology finding its way not just into the connected vehicle ecosystem but the growing usefulness of iris scanners for payments in general. There is a constant search for a frictionless user experience in payments - and what could be more frictionless than just a glance at a scanner?