Fujitsu demos iris scanner that unlocks smartphones

A prototype smartphone can be unlocked in less than a second with just a glance

Fujitsu has developed a smartphone with an iris scanner that can authenticate users in less than a second. On display at Mobile World Congress this week, the prototype is the first of its kind for a smartphone, according to the company. The iris scanner makes it easier to unlock a phone than using one’s hands. It recognizes the patterns that are unique to each person's iris, the colored area around the pupil, and can work even if you are using glasses or contact lenses.

Fujitsu has developed a smartphone with an iris scanner that can authenticate users in less than a second. On display at Mobile World Congress this week, the prototype is the first of its kind for a smartphone, according to the company. The iris scanner makes it easier to unlock a phone than using one’s ...

If you hate having to punch in a number or scan your finger when using your phone, now you can unlock it with just a glance.

Fujitsu has developed a smartphone with an iris scanner that can authenticate users in less than a second. On display at Mobile World Congress this week, the prototype is the first of its kind for a smartphone, according to the company.

The iris scanner makes it easier to unlock a phone than using ones hands. It recognizes the patterns that are unique to each person's iris, the colored area around the pupil, and can work even if you are using glasses or contact lenses.

The prototype consists of a piece of hardware weighing less than 1 gram thats been grafted onto a regular smartphone. Fujitsu managed to miniaturize an infrared LED light, located on the top left above the smartphone screen, and an infrared camera, which is located on the top right.

Users first register their unique iris pattern, which is stored in the phone and not transmitted. The registration is done by looking into a pair of animated circles in a guidance app. The irises are illuminated with the infrared light and the infrared camera captures an image of the pattern.

Once the iris pattern is registered, the phone can be unlocked in less than a second as long as its held not too far away. It doesnt have to be uncomfortably close, either. Unlike most iris-recognition systems, the phone doesnt have to be held within a few centimeters of the eyes.

The prototype incorporates a high-speed, high-accuracy iris recognition algorithm developed by California-based Delta ID. Fujitsu said the error rate is about one in 100,000.

This device can be used to unlock applications and for cloud authentication," said Takuya Kitamura of Fujitsu's Ubiquitous Business Strategy Unit. "Fujitsu is also working to make this an enterprise security solution, adding iris authentication to fingerprint and vein scanning."

Fujitsu previously developedgaze-tracking sensors for shopping applications as well as palm-vein scanners for laptops and tablets. It could bring the iris scanner to such devices as well.

The company hasnt decided on how the iris authentication technology will be commercialized, but wants to bring it to market in the year ending March 31, 2016.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

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