GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS

Portable retina scanner: From Batman's belt to your hand

Recently the Hoyos Group, an identity management company from Puerto Rico, announced the first-ever portable retina scanner made for the consumer market. The company named it EyeLock, which to me sounds either like a comic book superhero or a medical condition you’d get from watching too much television.

We’ve known for quite some time that the uniqueness of the configuration of the tiny blood vessels in the retina of the human eye makes a great means of biometric identification. The idea was first published in 1935. Heck, Batman even had a portable retina scanner in his eponymous 1966 movie. Holy speculative fiction, Batman!

Well, now reality has caught up with fiction once more, and we have the EyeLock, which is not much bigger than the one the Caped Crusader wore on his belt. It plugs into a base that is connected to your computer via a USB port.

You install the software and choose the websites and programs you want to protect, and it will then ask for a scan whenever an attempt is made to access to those areas. You simply unclip the EyeLock from your utility belt (or whatever you non-superheroes use to carry stuff around), scan your eye, and access the website or program in question.

Apparently, this type of biometric will only work with a living person. When someone dies, the shape of their eye changes enough to make scan come up negative. Great — that's one more thing I will have to learn to let go of in order to enjoy the next spy movie I see.

Oh, and if you are thinking that the way to defeat this without scooping out an eye would be to hack the middleware, the EyeLock actually generates a different random key every time it’s used, which makes it very difficult to duplicate.

Although they haven’t announced a firm launch date, Hoyos Group has decided that the EyeLock will retail for $99. At that price, we might be seeing retina scans in organizations that need that level of security but can’t afford huge commercial scanners.

So don’t be surprised if you see more of these in use within a year. You might even get to gaze at one up close — you know, when you are putting your eye into it. Batman would be proud.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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