Interview: Delta ID’s CEO on the future of iris on mobile
08 June 2016 12:17 GMT

Once nothing more a tech rumour, the presence of iris recognition on mobile devices has become a solid reality in recent years with high-profile smartphone and tablet deployments by major manufacturers.

Boasting potential greater security levels than rival modalities and applications that range from welfare distribution in rural areas to secured bank transfers and trading - people are discovering that iris can challenge the established solutions in the mobile market.

One of the major emerging players in iris on mobile is Delta ID, whose ActiveIRIS technology powers the iris recognition feature of Fujitsu's smartphone, the arrows NX.

Planet Biometrics caught up with the company’s CEO, Salil Prabhakar, to discuss the company’s plans for the future.

Delta ID has had some impressive deployments, do you see iris increasingly featuring on mobile devices?

Since its inception, Delta ID has been singularly focused on development of iris recognition technology for consumer mobile devices. We believe iris is much superior biometric modality compared to fingerprints or face, it offers better accuracy, security and reliability. Our focus has been to bring these advantages of iris recognition to consumer mobile devices. Our ActiveIRIS technology is now available in multiple smartphones and tablets in the market today. We are seeing significant traction amongst mobile device OEMs, and more importantly, a very positive response from the consumers using this technology. We believe you will find iris, and our ActiveIRIS technology, in many more mass market consumer mobile devices in the market in the near future.

What advantages do you see iris offering over fingerprint readers?

Fingerprint readers can be confused if you have damp fingers or are wearing gloves. Fingerprint readers also don’t work too well with women, children, and elderly people due to soft skin, small fingers, dry skin, or worn out ridges. People in occupations involving manual labour such as, construction, farming etc. end up eroding or damaging their fingerprints, making it difficult for fingerprint readers to reliably scan their fingerprints. The iris has a rich pattern, which translates into more information content and stronger accuracy and security. Additionally, the iris, being a protected internal organ covered by cornea, is not affected by external factors such as wet or dry conditions or manual labour, and offers a much better reliability and demographic coverage. The touch less authentication experience it offers is preferred by many consumers. Finally, the incremental cost of adding iris recognition to a mobile device is lower than adding a good quality fingerprint reader.

What have been the key elements in Delta ID’s success in bringing products to market?

Persistent focus on mobile devices and user experience has been the driving factor in fine tuning and perfecting the technology and is the key contributor to the success of Delta ID. We intend to tirelessly pursue exploitation of the iris modality and keep improving usability and security so that consumers can truly enjoy this wonderful gift of nature in making their daily life easier and secure.

What were your main considerations when building a team for Delta ID?

Talent, culture, and customer focus have been the top considerations. The Delta ID team is skilled in multiple domains and the team works very closely together as well as with our OEM customers to jointly optimize hardware, software, and systems engineering. Our team works relentlessly with a sense of mission and revels when their work is enjoyed and appreciated by consumers. In a recent survey in Japan, it was found that over 90% consumers using iris to unlock their smartphones are satisfied with the technology.

Do you see iris on mobile devices being an important part of India’s Aadhar programme?

Samsung has already launched the Galaxy Tab Iris for government and enterprises in India. This tablet is fully compatible with the Aadhaar system and has been certified for Aadhaar use by the Government of India. Samsung also provides an SDK for Aadhaar authentication and eKYC (electronic know-your-customer). We believe an integrated mobile device with iris capability such as, the Galaxy Tab Iris, will significantly scale the adoption and use of Aadhaar across various uses cases in banking, financial inclusion, cashless payments and subsidy disbursements.

What is the best way to overcome misplaced negative perceptions on iris among the wider public?

Some negative perception people have about iris technology is due to old iris camera systems that were bulky, expensive, and difficult to use. This is no longer the case after ActiveIris has been introduced in the market. With increasing availability of user friendly iris recognition technology on mobile devices, this perception has started to fade already, and will continue to do so as more products and services come to market in the near future.