Mar 26 2013

Is Eye-Scanning Technology on the Verge of Widespread Adoption?

Biometrics technology is hardly new, but its high costs have long prevented schools from embracing it. That may soon change.

When Ray Bolling, president of Eyemetric Identity Systems, rolled out iris-recognition technology in two New Jersey school districts, he didn't know how parents would react to the futuristic process of being identified by their eyes. But they didn't blink.

The districts used iris-recognition cameras as part of a visitor management system that ensured only ­authorized adults could sign kids out of school. "When it came to the safety of children, parents did whatever they could," Bolling recalls. His company, a biometrics ­solutions ­provider for ­educational ­institutions and other organizations, installed iris scanners in 2003 and 2006, but he hasn't completed any school installations since. The reason has nothing to do with privacy concerns, he says, but rather, cost. The two New Jersey ­districts paid for the expensive ­technology using grant money, but without such funding, Bolling adds, other schools simply haven't been able to afford it — until now.

Right Price, Right Time

Until recently, iris-recognition ­cameras typically cost $3,000 to $4,000. But Iris ID Systems is now marketing a device that costs about half that. Bolling says the new price point is a "game changer" for schools interested in iris scanning. "I'm so excited about that device," Bolling says of the company's iCAM T10. "With their product, I think I can affordably offer an iris system that would fit a school's budget."

According to Mohammed Murad, vice president of global business ­development and sales for Iris ID Systems, the company's products ­already are being used in Nevada, New Jersey and Texas — mostly in early childhood centers.

Biometrics technologies always raise privacy concerns, Murad says, "but it's no different from taking your photo or fingerprint."

Whether or not the technology is too invasive for comfort should be "a community decision," says James Martinez, spokesman for the National Parent Teacher Association. "It's up to parents" to decide whether iris scanning will be acceptable for their schools, he adds.

More Than Meets the Eye

While Bolling says schools are ­demonstrating a "heightened awareness" of visitor tracking in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., security isn't the only application for iris-recognition technology.

A South Dakota company called BlinkSpot, for example, is marketing an iris-recognition system that makes sure students get on the correct school bus and are dropped off at the right stop. Once students scan in, their parents receive an email that lets them know their children's exact location.

Biometrics adoption will mimic the growth curve of ATMs, which achieved roughly 80% adoption through linear growth over a period of 20+ years.

SOURCE: The Future of Biometrics—Market Analysis, Segmentation & Forecasts: Insight into the Trends, Drivers & Opportunities That Will Shape the Industry Through 2020 (Acuity Market Intelligence, August 2009)

Murad says Iris ID Systems is hearing from districts that are interested in using iris-recognition on time clocks to track teacher overtime. And Bolling says he's talked to an official in a New Jersey district who wants to use the technology for students signing in and out of their open-campus lunch period. Without a secure system like iris recognition, he explains, students could simply sign their friends back in after lunch. Even identification cards can be lost or stolen, he adds.

"The beauty of iris and other ­biometrics technologies is, you're carrying that with you all the time," Bolling says. "You're not going to leave your eyes at home."

<p>Gandee Vasan/Getty Images</p>

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