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On the Horizon: Shop with Just a Blink of an Eye

Posted on December 19th, 2016

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With the age of constantly evolving smartphones comes an onslaught of cutting edge handheld technology. Fingerprint scans and Near Field Communication (such as Apple Pay) are becoming the norm, and several forward-thinking companies are expecting eye scanning to become the future of secure payments. Some cellphones can already scan eyes, such as the Microsoft 950 XL and Vivo X5 Pro; Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 also featured eye scanning technology before it was recalled. FYidoctors examines the new eye-focused biometric technology and how we expect it to impact you.

What is retinal scanning?

Retinal scanning is a biometric identification technique where a camera reads the unique pattern of blood vessels on the eye’s retina. The retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissue found at the back of the eye. The patterns of blood vessels are similar to a fingerprint, in that they’re completely unique and a virtual constant throughout a person’s life.

What is iris scanning?

Often confused with retinal scanning, iris scanning examines the unique details of the iris — the coloured part of the eye — which is externally visible. 

What are the pros and cons of eye scanning?

Eye scanning is very accurate in identifying individuals, and creating false matches is very difficult to pull off. Many countries already use iris recognition to identify citizens.

Eye scanning is easy, safe, and (should be) quick. Early cell phone systems were quite slow to read and identify an eye, but the speed is now just two or three seconds. The identification process should be able to read through prescription lenses and clear contact lenses since eye scanners have more difficulty identifying someone wearing coloured or textured contact lenses. A decent quality cell phone camera is all that is needed, along with an eye imaging software.

The technology behind eye scanning is significantly advanced and, for the next while, will come with a premium price tag. Expect cell phones that offer it to have a somewhat higher price point than alternative models.

Can I use an eye scanner to do my holiday shopping this year?

Unfortunately, shopping with a glance isn’t quite here yet, but it is on the horizon. Google has been taking a lot of interest in eye biometrics. It recently acquired Eyefluence, a company focused on eye scanning and tracking technology, and has taken out a patent on smart contact lens technology, which can scan the eye and create an “iris fingerprint.” Apple is rumoured to have iris-recognition capabilities in a future 2018 iPhone release.

In Japan, it’s already possible to use iris recognition to unlock a smartphone device and to certify mobile wallet payments. In another year or two, it seems plausible that we’ll be able to confirm our identity with a simple glance. And, in the blink of an eye, we’ll be done our shopping.

Check out this quirky video from Japan, advertising how users can benefit from a phone’s eye scanning capabilities: