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News Link • Surveillance

One Eye on the Future: Iris Scanners Are Coming

Full of tubular black furniture and shiny red walls, Hoyos' lab is dominated by a prototype of its iris scanning portal. As visitors approach the doorway, a monitor mounted at the top instructs them to "Look Here" at a video playback of themselves walking through the portal. The video has a slight delay, which creates a strange feeling of disconnection as you watch yourself watching yourself walking beneath it. If you are in the system, the monitor flashes green and welcomes you by name. On the surface, the portal is moderately cool, but not all that shocking -- an advanced technology that one can easily imagine becoming commonplace in a few years. Under the hood, however, Hoyos' iris-scanning technology is amazing: As one of the engineers pointed out, the scanner can identify up to fifty people per minute, and its database can hold information on hundreds of millions of users. According to Hoyos, it cannot be tricked by dead eyeballs, photos of eyes, nor contact lenses. And in terms of simplicity, adding users seems to be very easy: Entering me into the computer only took a few minutes (it would have taken only a second, had the computer not needed to be rebooted), and I found that walking through the portal at a leisurely pace gave the scanner plenty of time to identify me. It isn't hard to imagine the machines cropping up in airports -- where they could be used for check-in and ticketing -- subways, secure offices, and hundreds of other operations. Smaller versions, which were mounted around the lab, wouldn't be out of place in supermarkets, clothing stores or anywhere else where an iris scan attached to a bank account could put customers in easy contact with their money. While Hoyos is extremely tight-lipped about its current customers and future plans, it's clear that the company's products could transform daily life in America.

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