Iris recognition: The ultimate in access control authentication

Wednesday, January 1, 2003

The process of authenticating and identifying individuals has become an increasingly important issue throughout the industry as government, corporate, industrial and institutional security professionals look for tighter means of controlling access to their facilities. Of all the access solutions available on the market today, the development of cost-efficient iris recognition access control systems provides the most accurate and reliable authentication and identification system available to industry professionals. These new iris recognition access control systems are designed to complement existing and new access control systems while offering a more secure alternative to traditional card access and proximity devices.

Iris Recognition Overview

Access control systems have traditionally relied upon encoded devices and/or Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) for individuals to gain access to a facility or secured area. Unfortunately, encoded devices such as magnetic cards and proximity devices can be easily replicated, lost or stolen. The same holds true for PINs for traditional keypad controlled systems. Iris recognition alleviates these problems by shifting the authentication process to specific physiological traits that are virtually impossible to replicate. Unlike other forms of biometrics technologies presently in use today such as fingerprints, palm prints, hand geometry and facial patterns, iris recognition does not require any physical contact or invasive procedures. The technology has also proven to be significantly more effective based on scores of tests performed by independent labs and government agencies, such as the U.S. Defense Special Weapons Agency.

The iris is perfect for authentication and identification because each iris pattern is unique. The fine details found in each iris are much more complex than those found in fingerprints. In addition, iris patterns are not affected by aging or the daily physical abuse fingerprints are subject to over time and remain virtually unchanged for a lifetime.

How Iris Recognition Works

The most advanced iris recognition access control systems available today incorporate two cameras for fast and accurate authentication; one camera is used as a guidance system to align an individual based on the position of their head and shoulders with a second camera that captures a high resolution image of the person’s iris.

Once an image of the individual’s iris has been captured and archived in the system’s database, they are enrolled in the system. It takes about 20 seconds to typically enroll an individual. Authentication at the access control site only takes a few seconds at best.

The new iris recognition access control systems are designed for installation at the point of entry/egress where a card reader, keypad or other conventional access control device would normally be installed. Once enrolled in the system, individuals simply walk up to the device and look into the target area. For failsafe operation, user identification (up to 17 characters) and passwords (up to 10 digits) can also be assigned as a back-up system and for system administration access.

Additional Advantages

Since the principle design of iris recognition access control systems is based on video imaging technology, the deployment of these new systems can offer multiple benefits for physical and IT security applications. Products that offer multiple cameras can also double as a door entry surveillance system. This allows the system to be easily integrated into existing security systems with Weigand interface for integration into conventional access control systems and video outputs for CCTV system integration – both of which can be accessed via an IP address over a network. In addition, iris pattern files stored in the security system’s database can also be used for authentication when signing onto a network using small affordable desktop iris recognition devices. The technology truly provides a desktop to doorway authentication solution. The realm of possibilities for iris recognition technology can be further extended to include such practical applications as credit card verification and ATM access on a more universal scale.

A few final thoughts

Iris recognition provides a fast, accurate and highly efficient means of identifying and authenticating large numbers of individuals for a wide range of applications. The iris, which provides more distinct details and points of differentiation than any other physical trait, is the ideal “medium” for personal identification and authentication in a non-intrusive manner. The user-friendly technology provides fast and easy enrollment and authentication processes with the highest degrees of accuracy. In addition, iris recognition eliminates the need for magnetic access control devices and/or PINs, which can be easily lost, stolen or replicated. As a result, iris recognition technology will make access control systems even more secure. Now with the availability of cost-efficient iris recognition access control devices, the technology is poised to become a mainstream product in the deployment of access control systems at every application level.

Tim Meyerhoff is business development manager for Panasonic Security Systems.