Iris scanning: Sensar Inc.'s SecureCam
- By Michelle Speir
- Jun 05, 2000
There are currently only two vendors of iris scanning systems: IriScan Inc.
and Sensar Inc. IriScan holds the worldwide patent for iris recognition
technology and licenses it to Sensar, which has developed and marketed two
iris recognition products, SecureCam and soon-to-be-released SecureCam II.
Both products support the Human Authentication Application Programming
Interface (HA-API) and the Biometric Application Programming Interface (BAPI).
These two APIs are standards that allow iris recognition solutions to be
integrated into custom-developed applications such as the BioNetrix Authentication
Suite and SAFLINK Corp.'s Secure Authentication Facility for NT Workstations
(also called SAF/nt), which came with our review unit.
Iris recognition technology works well for both desktop PC log-in and
physical access applications. The SecureCam products are designed for use
with desktop PCs.
Irises are an excellent biometric to measure because they have hundreds
of minutiae points, or identifiable features. What's more, those points
remain stable throughout a person's life and they are all unique. The same
person's two irises differ from each other, and identical twins even have
different iris patterns.
Iris recognition works by taking a video image of the eye. The process
is noninvasive and uses the same low levels of illumination that camcorders
use. The system randomly generates a 512-byte hexadecimal code extracted
from the structure and pattern of the iris.
We tested the Sensar SecureCam, which consists of a camera that comes
in parallel port and USB versions (we tested the parallel), Biometric Service
Provider (BSP) software that is proprietary to the camera, and the SAFLINK
software. The parallel connector allows another parallel device, such as
a printer, to be used with the PC at the same time.
Setup was a breeze. We simply plugged the camera into the appropriate
port, installed the BSP software and installed SAF/nt. Enrolling users was
fairly easy as well. The user picks up the camera, holds it a few inches
from the eye and focuses on a yellow light within a target area inside the
camera. Different people will have different focal lengths, so users will
have to move the camera closer to or further from the eye to get the proper
focus. It takes a few seconds for the camera to capture a good image of
the iris, and then the process is finished.
Logging in with an iris is quick and easy. First you need to press CTRL-ALT-DEL
at the SAFLINK log-in window, then enter a username and domain and click
Logon. An Iris Logon box appears with a ready indicator and a Photograph
button. After you click the Photograph button, red lights on the camera
flash to let you know it's on and ready to scan your iris. Then you pick
up the camera and focus on the yellow light. As soon as the iris image is
captured, the system logs you in.
SAF/nt is extremely easy to use because it integrates seamlessly with
the Windows NT User Manager. It adds a Biometric button to the New User
window, and this button is used to enroll users biometrically and access
all other biometric information about the user.
Users enrolled biometrically do not have the option to use a password
to log in, so if the biometric cannot be used, the administrator must disable
biometric authentication for that user account. In addition to login functions,
SAF/nt for workstations includes an optional protected screen saver that
requires a biometric to unlock.
One other note about the SAFLINK software: Iris recognition is not the
only biometric supported by SAF/nt. You can also use fingerprint recognition,
voice verification and face verification with it. Visit www.saflink.com
for an updated listing of qualified third-party BSPs that work with SAFLINK's
The SecureCam system's list price is $300. The SecureCam II is not available
at press time but should be available shortly. It will be able to perform
iris recognition from a distance of 16 to 20 inches, so a user should be
able to scan an iris simply by looking at the camera mounted on the monitor
rather than picking it up to focus. In addition, the SecureCam II can be
used as a World Wide Web camera for video teleconferencing. It will have
a list price between $275 and $300, and with quantity discounts the price
could come down to $175 each.
SecureCam works with Windows 95/98, NT 4.0, and Windows 2000, as will
SecureCam II. An enterprise version of the SAFLINK software — SAF2000 — works with both NT and Novell Netware networks.