This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

March 31, 1999

Iris Identification

276 days until January 1, 2000

An article in the January 1999 issue of Discover Magazine reports that John Daugman, a computer scientist at Cambridge University, has developed an identification system that scans and recognizes the unique patterns in a person's iris—the colored part of the eye.

Daugman's camera uses infrared light to image the iris and then creates a digital code based on the iris' fiber pattern. Daugman notes that his device should not be confused with a retinal scanner, which examines the blood vessel patterns at the back of the eye. That technology requires the user to put his eye right up to the lens of a camera. Daugman's scanner can be used by someone standing up to three feet away. The device has performed flawlessly in 30 million tests, scanning as many as 100,000 iris codes a second, and can't be fooled by photos.

Imagine the potential uses of Daugman's technology. Police mug shots will take on a whole new dimension that will complement DNA testing and other means of identification. Enhancement of security cameras in banks, retail stores, airports, and numerous other locations will allow iris pattern identification of suspicious persons. Computer digitizing and databank management would allow instant identification. Location tags in the programming, combined with internet power, could effectively track people around the world. We could see a sort of global positioning system to find people wherever they are.

Corporate and school security could move to a new level. Forget your ID card today? No problem, we can confirm who you are. Airport check-in? Automatic. When hand-held scanning units are developed, you won't even need your driver's license for routine traffic stops. Underage drinking and cigarette purchasing won't be possible with those ubiquitous fake IDs. Medical records management could be enhanced. Credit cards may carry photos with iris readability that can be checked by banks or retailers concerned about checking your validity before you use your card.

Will we see this usage in our lifetimes? Will the fear of "big-brotherism" block application of Daugman's technology? We don't have the answers on this one.


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