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Fujitsu developed a new smartphone with iris recognition, and a Clarkson University professor expects the technology to be available in the United States soon.

Clarkson Paynter-Krigman Professor in Engineering Science, Stephanie Schuckers, who is the director for the Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR), said the iris recognition systems in the Fujitsu smartphone are giving people more options to protect their electronic devices.

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Schuckers said the type of biometrics people choose depends on more than how well the system differentiates between individuals. The application, convenience, price and cultural expectations related to each system can influence personal preference.

“The nice thing about iris recognition is you don’t have to touch something,” she said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that we’ll see iris recognition devices in the U.S. in the near future.”

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Iris recognition systems use near-infrared lights to analyze the pattern of the muscles in the iris, not the color of the iris. Schuckers said near-infrared lights see use in many technologies, including security systems, and are not dangerous to the user in this application.

While iris recognition technology has improved in recent decades, she said, the reliability of the biometric depends on the system itself and the sophistication of the software.

“Iris recognition is very high quality like a fingerprint, but no biometric — an iris or a fingerprint — is perfect,” she said.

Some iris recognition systems may be vulnerable to printed photos of eyes or patterned contact lenses, while other implementations may end up programmed to protect against these spoofs. Schuckers urged smartphone users to be aware of the quality of apps and other devices that claim to provide iris recognition.

“There is going to be a range of how well the system is implemented, and the thing about software is that you don’t know how well it’s functioning under the hood,” she said.

That’s why Schuckers is working with other CITeR researchers to develop methods to protect against biometric spoofing. The organization is funding a competition, the Liveness Detection (LivDet) Competition Series, which asks researchers to provide algorithms that differentiate between data from real and fake irises.

“We’re studying those vulnerabilities and ways to mitigate those vulnerabilities,” she said. “We’re trying to recognize when people are faking a biometric device.”

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