What Is Iris Scanning Used For?

iris-scanning-used Credit: PASIEKA/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Iris scanning technology is a security measure used to identify individuals with respect to high-security applications, such as government buildings, airports, computer access, ultra-secure locations and cellphone access. Hospitals use iris scanning technology to pair mothers with infants in maternity wards. Border crossing agents match the identities of people on government watch lists with iris scans.

Cellphone companies may use this type of identification to authenticate users and prevent theft. A camera within the phone identifies its owner after taking a picture of the eye. According to a 2014 article on VB News, cellphone manufacturers plan to develop iris scanners that navigate screens on mobile tablet devices.

Iris scanners have several advantages. The chance of one iris being identical to another is one in 10^78. Computers compare up to 200 points of reference for a subject's eye, as opposed to 70 for fingerprints. Human irises do not change over time, and this type of tissue is fixed once a baby reaches 10 months. Iris scanning differs from retinal scans in that eyes must be closer to the scanning device.

The process works when a sophisticated camera photographs the human iris 3 to 10 inches away and turns the image into a unique code that matches a person's identity in a computer database. The encryption method is known as biometric identification, a concept that uses a person's biology to determine identity.