Fidelys smartwatch: Could iris scans replace passwords?

A new smartwatch, Fidelys, aims to bring a new level of biometric security to our lives with an ultra-secure infrared iris-scanning camera – putting the fingerprint swipe pads of phones such as iPhone 5S and Samsung’s Galaxy S5 in the shade, according to Digital Trends‘ report.

The probability of two individuals having the same iris is one in two trillion, the makers of Fidelys say. Iris scans are less likely to offer “false postiives” than fingerprint scans – and the makers of Fidelys say that people are more likely to accept them, as unlike fingerprint scans, they’re not associated with law enforcement.

The technology is common in military and government establishments – but has so far been too bulky and expensive for smartphones.

One in two trillion

The smartwatch is soon to seek funding via Indiegogo, but has already attracted attention from technology sites such as Liliputing and Ubergizmo. Its makers hope that within six months, the watch will work as a “password” for everything from websites on the user’s PC to door handles and even secure workplaces.

Fidelys’s Jung woon Ryu says,“I came to realise that smartwatches are an ideal form factor for iris recognition, because we always look into our watches. In the modern world, there are always data breaches, but all we’ve done is create longer passwords. Fidelys has a single sign-on application, so once you’ve set it your password for each website  you don’t have to bother with passwords again. You log in with your iris.”

Scans in two seconds

The smartwatch’s infrared scanner scans irises within two seconds, using iris-scanner technology developed by InTech and used by companies such as Lockheed Martin.

Digital Trends reports that the smartwatch will help users to do away with passwords, and its makers hope the iris scan will allow the watch to work as a secure authentication device for other nearby computers.

The watch will also allow users to lock “secret” files and folders using enrcyption, with their iris as the password.” Liliputing reports that the smartwatch – controlled by twisting a bezel rather than a touchscreen – ships with Bluetooth Low Energy to communicate with nearby devices.

Jung woon Ryu says, “With Fidelys secret files and folders are for your iris only. In a world where all the machines are becoming connected to each other, authentication is becoming a huge issue.”

The next level for biometrics?

The Fidelys smartwatch is expected to be one of several upcoming mobile devices to use iris-scanning technologies, with Samsung reported to be investigating new biometric technologies for use in high-end smartphones – including iris scans.

A senior Samsung executive told the Wall Street Journal said that the technology would appear in high-end smartphones first – just as fingerprint scans appeared in Apple’s iPhone 5S and Samsung’s Galaxy S5. Samsung is riding on a wave of enthusiasm for biometrics.

The Register points out that iris scanners offer a higher level of security than fingerprint scans – both the Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S were ‘hacked’ within days of launch. “The trouble is, they’re not terribly secure – at least, not by the standards of government work. Hackers demonstrated a way to fool the Galaxy S5’s fingerprint scanner using a fake fingerprint made of wood glue four days after the phone launched,” the site commented.

Iris scans are used in high-security government institutions as they generally work faster than fingerprint scans, and offer higher accuracy by scanning for more data points.

At CES this year, a sensor designed for use in smartphones, Myris, boasted that it could best the levels of security offered by fingerprint scans, analyzing frames of video for unique identifiers at a speed comparable to “looking in a mirror”. The device, as reported by We Live Security here, required a mouse-sized dongle to operate – but offered, its makers claimed a “false positive” rate of 2.25 trillion, equivalent to the population of 315 Earths.

Anthonly Antolino of Myris said, “Iris, as a human part of the body, is second only to DNA in terms of its ability to authenticate someone with certainty. No two people on the planet have the same iris texture. Not even identical twins.”

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

  • Canuck

    It’s not a ‘scan’ but an image capture. There are no lasers, lights or any other Hollywood creations – it’s a picture.

  • Anti biometric league

    What about families who have shared devices, email account, computer, tablet, ip, ipod, ipad, smartphone … ?

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