Mobile World Congress: Bye-bye passwords, hello to biometric authentication in a blink

Biometric solutions announced at Mobile World Congress move us closer to killing off passwords.

Biometric authentication
Credit: Tracy Lorna

If you are eager to see the end of passwords, then you might be pleased by biometric solutions being touted as enhancing privacy and security. New authentication solutions being shown off at World Mobile Congress 2015 include a Fujitsu prototype smartphone that uses iris recognition, an eyeprint scanner built into the new ZTE Grand S3 and Qualcomm’s ultrasonic fingerprint scanner.

Fujitsu prototype smartphone authenticates via iris recognition

When it’s cold and you are wearing gloves, you don’t need to take one off to scan your fingerprint. Instead, to unlock the smartphone, you look at the screen and it “instantaneously” reads your iris. Fujitsu announced a prototype smartphone that authenticates a person via iris recognition. The company said it miniaturized and optimized iris authentication technology; the prototype’s hardware weighs less than one gram.

Why iris recognition instead of fingerprint? Fujitsu said the iris, the colored area around the pupil, changes very little after the age of two. An iris is unique like a fingerprint, but it’s much more difficult to create a fake.

How Fujitsu prototype smartphone iris authentication works Fujitsu

Fujitsu showed the schematic of its smartphone prototype equipped with infrared camera and infrared LED.

The prototype uses an infrared LED light that reads the iris from a normal smartphone viewing distance; that infrared LED light was “verified to be safe for the eyes.” As a user looks at a pair of animated circles in a guidance app, the iris “pattern is read by shining an infrared LED light on the eyes and taking an image of them with an infrared camera to acquire the iris pattern.” The iris print is “registered and used to verify matches;” the biometric signature is stored on the phone and not transmitted.

Fujitsu’s prototype phone uses Delta ID iris recognition technology called ActiveIRIS. According to Delta ID, it “makes the iris in our eyes a unique and secret ‘password’ that we never have to remember. All the users will ever have to do is to just look at his/her device to unlock it, log into a bank account, or make an online or mobile payment.”  

Delta ID says its iris recognition engine “recognizes a user in less than 150ms.” It doesn’t matter if you wear contacts as the company claims that it works “with or without glasses; that it matches out-of-focus, misaligned, occluded eyes, images with motion-blur, pupil dilation, and that it works across lighting conditions with ambient reflections. It also has a 1 in 10 million false acceptance rate.”

Fujitsu said it plans to apply iris recognition technology to a wide range of products, including security systems. The company also released a video showing off its prototype; it’s in Japanese, but you get the general idea.

ZTE Grand S3 eyeprint authentication scans, matches blood vessels in eyes

ZTE also wants users to say bye-bye to passwords and hello to eye-based biometric authentication. Its take on using the windows to your soul for authentication is debuting via a retina scanner in its new ZTE Grand S3.  

ZTE Grand S3 ZTE

The Eyeprint ID technology, called EyeVerify, uses the phone’s built-in camera to scan both eyes and then pattern match unique blood vessels in the eyes. The vein patterns in the whites of the eyes are unique just like fingerprints. The authentication process, according to EyeVerify, happens “as fast as 800 milliseconds, which is instantaneous from a users’ perspective.”

Android Central took it for a test run before reporting that the entire process from unlocking the screen, to holding the Grand S3 in front of your face to capture both eyes in the scanner box, to being authenticated “takes about 5 seconds.” Additionally, ZTE said you can’t trick the Grand S3 authentication process by using a photo or video of the phone’s owner.

If you have bloodshot eyes and wonder if the extra vein patterns in the whites of the eyes will mess up the authentication process, then don’t worry. According to Toby Rush, the CEO of EyeVerify, “You can have allergies, you can have hay fever, you could be out late the night before, drinking the night before, you could live in California and use medicinal marijuana, all those things don't change the pattern of blood vessels, they simply make them bigger.”

Authentication via Qualcomm ultrasonic fingerprint scanner

Also at Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm Technologies announced the mobile industry’s first 3D fingerprint authentication technology based on ultrasonic tech. The company said its Snapdragon Sense ID 3D Fingerprint Technology is based on FIDO (Fast Identity Online) protocols; it trumps other touch-based fingerprint technologies because it can scan through a glass smartphone cover as well as through “aluminum, stainless steel, sapphire and plastics….The user experience is also improved by being able to scan through various contaminants that might be present on the finger, such as sweat, hand lotion and condensation, providing a more consistent and accurate method of authentication.”

Qualcomm added:

Additionally, QTI's ultrasonic-based solution uses sound waves to directly penetrate the outer layers of skin, detecting three-dimensional details and unique fingerprint characteristics, including fingerprint ridges and sweat pores that are not possible to detect with current capacitive touch-based fingerprint technologies. The result is a highly detailed surface map of the fingerprint which is difficult to imitate or spoof.

Qualcomm is not just suggesting its biometric solution could replace passwords; the company suggested that fingerprint scan authentication could serve as signing in at doctor’s office or be used as giving your permission to share health records with a hospital.

The march toward exascale computers
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