Iris biometric access control systems are becoming more popular as privacy and mask-detection concerns plague facial recognition systems.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced access control customers to upgrade from tactile modalities like fingerprint to contactless systems. Facial recognition has been the frontrunner in this market so far. But concerns of privacy and the efficacy of recognizing people who wear masks have prompted the market to consider iris biometric as a viable alternative.
Various market research agencies forecast iris recognition demand to grow at exponential rates in the coming years. Although we cannot independently vouch for the credibility of these claims, companies are equally optimistic. Iris identification and iris detection systems are no longer consider complicated technology that's out of reach of commercial customers.
"In the past, face recognition was popular because of the fact that it's easy to use," explains Bobby Varma, Co-Founder and CEO of Princeton Identity. "Now a lot of companies are leaning towards iris recognition, for two main reasons. One is that the pandemic has forced people to wear masks. The second thing is because facial recognition systems tend to discriminate against people with darker skin color."
Many large employers that Princeton Identity is working with are moving away from face because of the whole aspect around employee relations. They do not want to discriminate or wish to have the employees feel like they're being discriminated against because of their skin color. Iris biometric not just makes their premises more secure but also helps them create a comfortable working environment.
While this new demand is definitely great for the industry, three specific verticals continue to remain the most significant users of iris recognition for access control.
Also read: Body recognition to enhance facial recognition
Inherently Iris has been used for government verticals. There are quite a few reasons for this. Many government facilities need high security because of national security factors. Governments are also custodians of large amounts of data because, unlike companies who worry only about their employees, governments have the entire population to think of.
"When you require both high security and convenience, the iris becomes a preferred choice," Varma continued. "It's also ideal when it comes to large databases because iris has a very small template size compared to face and fingerprint. So, many of the national identity programs tend to leverage Iris more than any other modality. From the accuracy perspective, iris is one of the most accurate biometric out there."
Any technology used in the health care industry has to consider the fact that employees in this field may be wearing outfits that would not allow them to use fingers or expose their whole face. The personal protective equipment (PPE) that has become ubiquitous after COVID-19 is the best example. The only biometric access control modality that would work for a person wearing a full PPE suit would be iris biometrics.
The requirements of the pharmaceutical industry are similar to those of the health care industry. In fact, wherever there is a lab, people tend to use gloves and masks. These cannot be taken off, and hence an iris biometric system-based access control works best. Employees can enter and exit the premises without hassle as even if they wear suits that cover their entire body, eyes will be exposed, even if it's through glasses.
Factors limiting the adoption of iris biometrics in other verticals
Although iris recognition-based access control systems are convenient and accurate, there are certain factors that limit their adoption. Varma points out that customers may be able to use facial recognition with the help of cameras that they already have, but for iris recognition, they will need to invest in new hardware. This increases costs. There are also technical difficulties as the iris scanner biometric devices are slightly more difficult to use than facial recognition systems.
"The other thing impediment is that a lot of people don't want to use irises because a face offers a much larger capital volume," Varma added. "You can recognize somebody at a much larger distance with facial recognition. With Iris, the person has to be more at an arm's length, and it requires a bit more user cooperation. There is also a slightly steeper learning curve for the end customers to make full use of the technology."