Iris Technology Overview


Biometrics is the science of identifying people by unique physical features, rather than by a token carried by the person (such as a medical ID card, "smart card", driver's license, or building access card).  This is not science fiction.  The computer you're using probably has more power than the supercomputers of a few years ago.  Today's high power, low cost computers easily handle the advanced pattern recognition calculations required for biometric identification.  The three most prominent commercially available biometric technologies are fingerprint, iris, and facial identification.  The accuracy of these technologies have been thoroughly tested by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and other respected independent laboratories.  A fourth technology, palm vein matching, has not been similarly tested by NIST.

Why the Iris?

The iris is the most unique feature visible on the human body.  No two irises are the same - even identical twins have different iris patterns. The abundance of detail in the iris, its variability and lack of genetic dependence, and its accessibility for imaging without physical contact all make the iris an excellent personal identifier.  Each of the three main biometrics has applications where it excels.  However, for patient identification, iris has the edge.  Iris recognition is more accurate than either fingerprints or facial, which is important where the standard is a zero error rate.  Fingerprint identification uses a contact sensor, a non-sterile pad that all persons must touch to be identified.  In a clinical environment, it's likely that some users will have transmissible diseases, so non-contact technologies are a better choice.  Our comparison chart on selected technology features highlights advantages of the iris technology in this application.

Is the technology reliable?

Iris recognition has proven its merit in high security applications around the world.  The Eye Controls technical team previously developed and installed systems for critical applications like passport control, airport employee and airline crew identification, and access control at the Olympics.  These systems operated reliably 24/7/365 at locations around the world, and performed nearly a million identifications with zero errors.  The Immigration Services of the United Kingdom and Canada, among others, are now using iris recognition systems for passport control.  Extensive testing by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) demonstrates that the top-tier algorithms are capable of immediately and accurately identifying a person from among a very large number of records. 


How it works

Iris recognition technology uses a digital camera in combination with software that performs the following functions:

a) Acquires an image of the eye, which includes the iris

b) Defines the boundaries of the iris

c) Analyzes image data

d) Generates pattern data

e) Stores the pattern data

f) When recognition is desired, another image is taken, and pattern data from that image is matched to the stored data.


Why isn't this amazing technology in use everywhere?

Previous iris identification systems were designed for high volume public processing or for military and national security applications that justified a high cost per station.  To bring this technology to the health care field, we studied clinical identification needs and developed new patent-pending approaches and camera systems to meet those needs.  We're creating a new competitive environment by making iris recognition available at a sensible cost for many useful applications.


Is iris identification different from retinal scanning?

Yes, very different.  Retinal scanning is an older biometric technology that maps the blood vessels in the retina (optic nerve head) in the back of your eye using lights aimed into the eye.  The iris, in contrast, is on the outside and visible without any invasive lighting.  Iris identification systems merely take a digital picture of the outside of your eye and do not provide any other health information; retinal scanning is more like getting an eye exam and can be used to diagnose various medical conditions.


Contact Us 

Toll Free in U.S. and Canada: 
(877) 4-IRIS-ID  

Worldwide Fax:  (267) 295-8102

22 Baltimore Road
Rockville, MD 20850

News & Events 
The DEA recently announced new regulations that will enable e-prescriptions for controlled substances. The regulations offer a choice of several physician authentication options for e-prescribing. Iris biometric authentication has one of the lowest costs among the approved solutions and is fast, easy to use, and reliable. The SafeMatch® system, with a zero measured false accept rate and a zero measured false reject rate, will meet all DEA requirements and is easily integrated with your e-prescribing software.
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