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Time to go fully biometrics

By Jean-Claude Elias - May 11,2017 - Last updated at May 11,2017

When you go to the civil status department to renew your ID card, like millions are doing these days in Jordan, your main identification is now done with an iris scan camera that takes a snapshot of your eyes, focuses on your irises, converts their patterns into a unique code and stores it in the department’s database. It is fast, clean, unobtrusive, painless, and before anything else it is unequivocal and leaves no margin for error in subsequent identification.

Samsung’s latest Galaxy S8 smartphone comes with the same iris scan feature built in the device. Even Apple is seriously considering adding this functionality to its iPhone 8 expected to be available next year; a piece of news that is, yet, to be confirmed.

What does all this tell us? That it is high time to move away from antiquated passwords and other traditional methods, and to go fully, exclusively with biometrics, ideally with iris scan, the most perfect of them all.

Why the urge now? There are two reasons for that, two major changes that are happening almost simultaneously.

The first is the undisputed superiority of the iris scan personal identification (PI) compared to the older ways, with security and convenience being at the top of the advantages list. The second is the steadily increasing need for PI, occurring several times a day, with all the digital and web based systems that we interface with. Passwords are not only weak and a potential security risk for identity theft, they are also most annoying to use. Even if you are a perfectly organised person and have an elephant-like memory, entering passwords several times a day is anything but fun, not to mention the time-consuming factor.

Between banking through physical ATM or online, enjoying online shopping, entering the PIN code of your credit cards when shopping or paying on-site, unlocking your smartphone countless times, entering your office door digital code for example, entering your e-mail account password, accessing your cloud storage space, and a few other applications, the list is long and growing of tasks that require personal and safe PI.

If for some of these you can always choose to save the password instead of entering it over and over again, mainly when using computers and browsing websites, the practice is dangerous and is known to be an invitation to hackers. The safest approach is not to save the passwords, but to enter them each time. On a typical day, an active person who uses most of the digital technology around would have to type passwords 30 to 40 times. This is a hassle and a waste of time. It is not acceptable anymore.

Biometrics, and again with iris scan in the lead, is the way to go now more than ever. More organisations in Jordan should follow the example of the civil status department, the borders’ security and the banks already using iris scan cameras and systems.

As devices largely used by the population smartphones are obviously the essential, the first tool to use iris scan for quick PI. It is surprising and disappointing that laptop computers cameras are not yet all associated with iris scan software. Perhaps Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Toshiba, HP and the other big manufacturers will follow in the footsteps of Samsung and Apple and make iris scan a standard feature of their upcoming models. It won’t be a luxury but a basic necessity.


The other strange thing about biometrical identification is how long it has taken to be finally recognised, adopted and implemented on a large scale. The technology has been around and perfected for at least 12 years now, but has been or less limited to specific applications, like some international airports for example — and only a few of them as a matter of fact — as well as some banks.

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