Look into my eyes! Iris authentication, now on tablet PC

30th May 2016
Look into my eyes! Iris  authentication, now on tablet PC
Samsung India VP Sukesh Jain flanked by (left) ABP Pandey of UIDAI and RS Sharma of TRAI, at the launch of Samsung Galaxy Tab Iris ( photo right) in Delhi, May 26 2016

Huge potential of Aadhaar  prompts Samsung to 'make in India' for its tablet-based  iris authentication  technology
By Anand Parthasarathy
May 30 2016: Last week,  Samsung, staged a dramatic demo in Delhi. As the Telecom Regulatory Authority's   Chairman, R.S. Sharma  and  the Unique Identification Authority of India's Director General A.B.P. Pandey, watched,  a Samsung engineer used   a just-launched  tablet PC to scan the iris of  Aloknath De,  Samsung's India R&D head.  Dr De supplied his Aadhaar number. Within a second,  the tablet reported that it had successfully  established that he was who he claimed to be -- and brought up his Aadhaar card on the screen. 
The  resounding  taalis aside, this was a development whose potential  is only now sinking in. Samsung's Bangalore-based  engineers  have designed and developed what is arguably the first -ever tablet PC-based  system to   authenticate a person's identity with near infallibility. To do this the team led by Dr De has incorporated a special camera to scan  the iris of a person's  eyes  and uses a formula  called 2-factor authentication to  identify him  or her  to 99.9 percent certainty  ( see box: Iris scanning: Infallible)
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Iris, replaces the front camera with an  Iris scanner. In other respects this is a fairly standard 7 inch tablet with  a quad core processor,  a 5 megapixel  autofocus rear camera, with a good 3600 mAh battery  running Android Lollipop 5.11, with   1.5 GB RAM. What is unusual is  the 8 GB storage,  expandable to a   massive  200 GB -- and one can see why.  In authenticating identities, the tablet  may have to store thousands of records.  In addition to the software to   run the iris identity check with a single click, the makers have made the tablet fully compliant with the Aadhaar data base and   has been so certified by the quality control organisation, STQC.  They have  placed the tablet's identity software development kit in the public domain so that developers  can create  applications where the iris scan can be used at  ration shops,    or for disbursing payments under  MNREGA, pension payments and any number of e-citizen services.
If one wondered  why Samsung chose  India to create this technology,  Dr Pandey  suggested  the  logic. With Aadhaar enrolments  crossing 1 billion,  every seventh human being now holds an Aadhaar identity.  Samsung  is known to have filed for two patents in iris scanning  and has  registered  two trademarks: 'Samsung  Iris'  and 'Samsung Eyeprint'. Don't be surprised if the company, besides  leveraging the  first mover advantage for this  huge Indian business, also  looks at the global potential of its Made in India technology. 
So who is the immediate customer for the Galaxy Tab Iris?  Don't all rush,  because it is not  for you and m -- yet.  Public service departments  who may want to authenticate beneficiaries  with minimum delay are the obvious users. But  there are  other scenarios:  rapid insurance claim settlements;   preventing ghost  mobile phone subscribers,  quick clearance at airport immigration, preventing impersonation in examination halls, rapid  opening of bank accounts at the customer's home.....you name it.   At Rs  13,499, the tablet is reasonably priced for such a path breaking technology.
 Iris scanners on devices like phones and laptops are not new.  Microsoft launched two Lumia phones -- 950 and 950 XL -- last October  with inbuilt iris scanners which helped owners   unlock their phones using  its   Windows  'Hello' feature. But such applications are trivial compared to what  was showcased last week -- and when it  trickles down from being an enterprise tool to a consumer accessory -- that'll be the revolution.  Consider, you could ,  from the comfort of your home,  self-scan your iris -- and initiate a payment  or a document like a passport  without physical appearance.   This is the ultimate  selfie on steroids!
'Look into my eyes... and when you find me there, you'll search no more', sang Bryan Adams in another era on the sound track of the film 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves'.   Some lyrics can be so prescient  -- in ways their writers never imagined.

Iris Scanning: Infallible
The iris scanner is built around a digital camera that uses  visible and  Infra Red light.  By  shining IR into the eye,  it renders the pupil  very black, making it easy to isolate the iris. It then locates the centre and edge  of the pupil, the edge of the iris  and the eyelid and eyelashes. Together these  factors provide  200 points of reference against  around 70 when you  take a fingerprint. While  fingerprints degrade especially when the subject does manual labour, eyes remain unchanged  even after surgery.  The blind  too, have an iris.  The  chance of mistaking one person's iris for another's has been rated  as one chance in 10 raised to the power 78  -- or virtually nil. Glasses or contact lenses won't affect the scan.  (Source: How Stuff Works)