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Iris scan biometrics ideal for Minority Report-like project

Published 31 August 2010

Leon, Mexico has began implementing an iris scan biometric system from New York-based Global Rainmakers; the system, rolled out across the city, will see the eyes of anyone taking money out of an ATM, paying for items in a store, or simply catching a bus scanned by hi-tech sensors; Global Rainmaker’s CEO says the company has chosen iris scan for its project because “With iris, you have over 2,000 points— With those 2,000 points, you can create a unique 16,000 bit stream of numbers that represents every human on the planet. That provides a reference point that can connect everything you do in all aspects of life, for the first time ever”

Leon, Mexico, a city of one million, has began implementing an iris scan biometric system from New York-based Global Rainmakers. The system, rolled out across the city, will see anyone taking money out of an ATM, paying for items in a store, or simply catching a bus will have their eyes scanned by hi-tech sensors. Criminals will automatically be enrolled, their irises scanned once convicted, while law-abiding citizens will have the option to opt-in. Jeff Carter, the company’s CEO believes people will choose to opt-in: “When you get masses of people opting-in, opting out does not help. Opting out actually puts more of a flag on you than just being part of the system. We believe everyone will opt-in” (“Minority Report comes to Leon, Mexico,” 20 August 2010 HSNW).

Fast Company’s Austin Carr interviewed Carter about the company’s technology. Here are a couple of questions and answers:

Fast Company: Why did GRI choose iris scans?

Jeff Carter: Well, one of the big problems in corporate America is reference data — that is, all the data that is about us. We don’t have any way to link it all together. It’s one of the reasons why your bank account doesn’t reconcile until 48 hours later because there’s all this data behind it that they have to execute manually.

When you look at the ways to link the data together, biometrics is the obvious choice. With a fingerprint, for instance, there’s about 100 recognizable data points. For a really great fingerprint, you may get about 15 points — and that’s if it’s perfect. Of that, you only need 7 or 8 points to convict. So essentially, you only need 7 or 8 points across a huge population of people. It’s one of the reasons fingerprints is causing so many problems.

With iris, you have over 2,000 points. Those 2,000 points appear when you’re born. When you’re in your mother’s womb, your iris tears in a unique fashion. That tear stays constant until the day you die. If you die, and your body loses blood pressure, the eye flattens. So while a lot of what you see in Minority Report is very real today, the part about pulling out eyeballs is not real.

 

With those 2,000 points, you can create a unique 16,000 bit stream of numbers that represents every human on the planet. That provides a reference point that can connect everything you do in all aspects of life, for the first time ever.

FC: What about other biometrics?

Carter: While fingerprints are not the best choice, they’ll be part of the landscape for years to come. India right now is doing the world’s first digital census. They’re collecting fingerprints, face, and iris. Face is important — our devices can capture face too. Voice biometrics are also huge. It’s how the CIA monitors communication across the globe. They sift through cell phones and create voice biometrics to find Al- Qaeda members, for instance, and hit them in their car later with a missile. That is not going away either.

All those biometrics are important, but what are the two biometrics that you can use for a program that spans the globe? DNA and iris. Obviously DNA can’t be captured from a distance. But that probably will happen in the not-too-distant future. So that leaves you with Iris.