Police have used fingerprints for years to book criminals – crime scenes are dusted for prints and when a suspect is brought into jail, the suspect’s fingers are dunked in ink so the fingerprints can be recorded. This is a type of biometric system; biometric systems authenticate a person’s identity based on biological traits. Facial structure, handprints, fingerprints, and iris patterns are commonly used traits for biometric systems. Much like a fingerprint, each person has a unique iris. However, fingerprints can be damaged over the years by wear and tear, while the iris is internal and protected by the cornea. Researchers at University of Kentucky’s Vis Center explore how to make an inexpensive and user-friendly iris recognition system.
Their project improves iris recognition systems so that they can swiftly, accurately, and automatically detect the iris and take a photo of the iris using a pan-tilt-zoom camera. A person will not have to stop walking to use the system. Researchers hope that they can refine their system to capture iris images up to ten feet away. The camera can detect irises through contacts, glasses, and even sunglasses. The system also costs less than a typical iris recognition system. Currently, an Xbox Kinect is one of the system’s main components.
A biometric system has applications for security systems. The obvious demand for such an iris recognition system comes from the Department of Homeland Security. An iris scanner can be used to control access to a restricted area within a building or to limit access to a database to those who are approved to use it. Iris scanners could be used in airport security systems or for use in passport-free automated border crossings. At the Vis Center, researchers study how to improve the functioning of iris recognition systems while keeping costs low so that these biometric systems become practical and accessible for security use.