Dr Salil Prabhakar, Founder & CEO, Delta ID, on how Iris technology is making mobile phones more secure


The ‘Iris’ – a thin, circular structure in the eye, responsible for controlling the diameter and size of the pupil and thus the amount of light reaching the retina, has a lot to do with the biometric authentication of an individual. Owing to its rich security pattern, which remains unaffected by external conditions and not changes with age or occupation, it has emerged as a great help to smart phones which usually contain a lot of information that may be compromised if it goes in the wrong hand. Delta ID started in 2011, California, has made remarkable advances in bringing iris technology to consumer mobile devices and applications and has fast emerged as a global leader in this field. Delta ID active iris technology includes software for iris capture and segmentation for authentication with UIDAI servers. When combined with UIDAI standard compliant iris hardware components, active iris software enables iris based Aadhaar authentication and EKYC that works reliably across the population in conditions and scenarios where users typically use their mobile devices. to discuss the various aspects of iris technology and how Delta ID is contributing to make mobile devices more secure, Ramesh Kumar Raja had a conversation with Dr Salil PrabhakarFounder, President and CEO of Delta ID. Prior to founding Delta ID, Dr Prabhakar was the director of R&D and chief scientist at digital persona inc. he has also been a consultant to the World Bank as a subject matter expert on identity solutions and their foundational role in social protection schemes. He played an instrumental role in advising the government of India and designing the country’s first UIDAI biometric subsystem, parts of the middle ware and also assisted in the procurement of biometric technology. Excerpts…

Iris technology is slowly but surely becoming a medium to make authentications more secure. How do you look at its future, especially with regard to the mobile devices?

If we talk about the mobile devices, specifically, biometric authentication technologies such as iris recognition technology are going to be a norm in mobile devices. Several leading handsets today are equipped with the iris recognition technology. Furthermore, as per the ABI Research, nearly 300 million smartphones equipped with iris scanner will be shipped by 2021. Hence, the future does look promising for the iris technology and in the coming years, we’ll witness the technology gaining mainstream prominence everywhere around us.

What advantages do you see iris offering over fingerprint readers?

Iris is an internal, donut-shaped organ behind the cornea of an eye. As a protected, internal organ, the iris remains unaffected by external conditions, it does not change with age or occupation. Additionally, iris has a rich pattern which translates into higher entropy in the realm of authentication and security. Overall, the iris is a more reliable and secure modality for authentication.

How significant it is to Government of India’s Aadhaar programme?

Iris scanning has been widely adopted in various Government initiatives using Aadhaar. Aadhaar has been made mandatory by the Government of India for resident authentication and e-KYC. Since iris recognition is more secure and reliable, especially for people from diverse age-groups and demographics, it has been a key enabler of Aadhaar authentication.

Being a global leader in this segment, how do you look at India as a market and what are your future plans?

India today stands poised at the edge of digital revolution. To the same end, there is immense scope for iris scanning in the subcontinent. We have already enabled Aadhaar authentication, in association with Samsung in the Samsung Galaxy Tab Iris which was launched in 2016. We continue to work with multiple OEMs, and look forward to launching Aadhaar enabled mobile devices with them in the short term.

Recently you collaborated with Indus OS to launch Aadhaar authenticated operating system. Can you elaborate about the technicalities of the development?

Delta ID is essentially providing the iris technology component for Aadhaar authentication and e-KYC. Once such capabilities are part of the platform multiple apps can take advantage of the strong authentication available to access various secure services.

What is the best way to overcome misplaced negative perceptions on iris among the wider public? Not sure if there is any negative perception of iris. Any new, and might I add – disruptive technology, has been subject to a lack of trust and negative perception in the beginning. However, over the years, most of the technologies that once faced resistance, have now become a part and parcel of our everyday lives. I foresee the same trajectory for iris scanning as well.

We are actively engaging with the media and mass communication platforms to create awareness about the security and reliability features offered by iris scanning. Contributing towards the Government’s initiative of Aadhaar authentication also helped us in educating consumers about the technology.

As the technology becomes more easily available, owing to iris scanning equipped smartphones of today, we are affirmative that the negative perceptions, if any, will change and the consumers will appreciate the convenience security features offered by iris scanning.

What have been the key elements in Delta ID’s success in bringing products to market?

As Delta ID, we have been able to innovate on technology front, and lead the market in bringing the iris scanning technology in association with our strategic partners and customers. We launched the world’s first iris scanning capable smartphone with Fujitsu and NTT DOCOMO, in May 2015, and have now introduced many more devices with them in the Japan market. We have also launched multiple other devices with various global OEM s. Another core area of focus has been bringing iris to mobile devices for Aadhaar authentication. On the fronts we have provided the iris scanning capability in the Samsung Galaxy Tab Iris SM-T116IR, available here in India. From the beginning we have remained focused on bringing iris to enable the mobile platform, and this singular focus has helped us in further improving the product and getting success with customers and partners.

Delta ID is also venturing into the fields of banking and automobiles to offer its services. Is smartphone again going to be a key driver to ensure security?

Certainly, we are venturing into different industry verticals. Recently, our partner Gentex showcased iris scanning capable rear-view mirrors at CE S last year. This rear-view mirror is used for authenticating the drivers for secure ignition, in-cabin personalization, and in future possibly for in-car payments.

Going further, we see iris scanning in many more smartphones in the near future. Iris is a strong modality that consumers will find increasingly more reliable, secure and easy-to-use on the smartphones.

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