Feature: Smartphone security – It’s all in the eyes
21 August 2015 14:36 GMT

By Dr Stefan Margott, LED Marketing Manager and Wolfgang Schnabel, Marketing Manager at Osram

As people continue to store important personal and professional data on their smartphones, making sure this data is secure has become an important factor when designing these devices.

We are starting to see a range of biometric methods being deployed across the market to help people keep their smartphones secure; technology such as fingerprint scanning and voice recognition have often been popular choices when trying to offer customer’s a safe and simple solution, however these have proven to have issues. Fingerprint scanning and voice recognition have been shown to be temperamental, due to the fact that they struggle to offer the user friendly solution people want and are more fallible than many would like. Because of this, iris scanners are increasingly becoming a key focus for manufacturers as they look for that convenient and secure method to make sure users can keep their devices protected. Through infrared LED (IRED) technology, companies now have the capability to create consistent, reliable systems.

The reason that Iris scanning technology provides such a secure solution for protecting your smartphone is because the method is far more reliable. For example, the iris pattern does not change with age and is also not subject to any external influences such as injuries, unlike fingerprints and vocal chords, which can become damaged or change with time. This is highlighted by the fact that the rate of false rejections – when an authorised user is rejected – through iris recognition is below one per cent. Additionally iris recognition is considered to be extremely forgery-proof, due to the fact that the iris cannot be replicated or leave marks on the screen, unlike fingerprint scanners which could be outsmarted due to fingerprints that the users themselves leave on the touch screen.

The technology involved when designing iris recognition systems is highly detailed; so many factors need to be considered so that the process is simple and secure.

High-contrast camera images are an important requirement for iris scanners, in order for the iris pattern to be read with the highest reliability. It has to be considered that the image contrast depends on the eye colour and on the wavelength of the used light source. For brown, the most predominant eye colour worldwide, very good results are only achieved with infrared light. Blue and green eyes are, however, best reproduced with visible light, this previously held the technology back. However, the technology has now developed so that any coloured eyes can be recognised through one system. Infrared illumination allows smartphones to obtain high-contrast images for all eye colours, while the typical reflections of the cornea, which can have an interfering effect on the iris recording, are minimal in this spectral range.

A central requirement for the reliability of iris scanners in any device is that the achievement of an image contrast is as high as possible, and this is no different when it comes to putting it into smartphones. The necessary irradiances at the eye have to be realised with minimum space and current use. Such a design can succeed with IREDs specially designed for that use, which not only deliver high optical performance, but also enable a highly efficient system with their radiation characteristic.

People are becoming more security conscious when it comes to their smartphones and as they continue to become an ever more standard part of our day-to-day lives, this is only going to increase. The good news is, however, that systems are being developed that can ensure people’s private information is secure. Iris technology gives users the best of both worlds, it provides all of the security with none of the hassle or risk and as the technology continues to develop, we will see it become a prominent fixtures on the smartphones for a long time to come.