Interview with Dr. Dae-hoon Kim, Ph.D., CEO/President, IriTech Inc.
fB: Has this been a good year for your company?
I: Yes. It has been a great year for IriTech.
To briefly summarize some of our recent success, we are providing iris cameras and software for the Indian UID project, where our enrollment camera, IriMagic 1000BK has achieved significant market share. In the US, our technology is being adopted and tested in a US-VISIT pilot program to add iris recognition.
Aside from the commercial success, we remain focused on research and development. We are working with smartphone manufacturers on improving security. With a few minor hardware adaptations, an existing smartphone can become a mobile iris solution. Additionally, we have just released our latest iris camera, IriShield, which has on-board security features to ensure that sensitive data remains secure and encrypted from end to end.
fB: Can you please review your product line up for us?
I: Cameras are generally classified as either enrollment or authentication cameras. Our enrollment camera line is the IriMagic series. This binocular camera is STQC certified and widely used in India for the UID project. For authentication, we have our new IriShield series. The main advantage here is that it can perform essential functions – iris capture, template generation, and matching – onboard, in a secure environment. It has a built-in PKI-based security infrastructure to ensure data security. IriShield is compact and extremely low cost. It is sold as a chip set, OEM module, or as an encased device to fit customers’ needs.
Our iris recognition algorithm is the best in the world. In NIST IREX I it scored the highest for accuracy and interoperability. NIST also validated the strong performance of our image quality assessment algorithm.
We also have a full suite of software to perform all the necessary functions for developing and maintaining iris recognition databases. The software is based on our patented iris recognition algorithm, which achieved top performance for accuracy and interoperability in NIST IREX I. The software will be used for BSP in India. It is scalable so it can be used in both large and small databases. Matching algorithms ensure that minimal time is needed to identify or verify a person. All of our software features state-of-the-art security so sensitive data is never compromised.
Our products are compatible with major operating systems. Users can customize their end solutions by using our software development kits and calling the appropriate APIs.
More details can be found on our website, www.iritech.com.
fB: Can you please review your new Mobile Security Platform?
I: During the past 5 years smartphones have increasingly become a part of our lives. So many transactions are made easier through use of a smartphone. But along with the increased convenience, smartphones pose a large security risk. Manufacturers and users are increasingly recognizing that the current security framework is inadequate. A four-digit PIN or a secret finger swipe can be easily hacked. Personal information, including financial or contact information, is jeopardized if the smartphone is compromised. Additionally, data inside the phone can be subject to malicious attacks.
IriTech’s Mobile Security platform mitigates this risk. By making a few minor changes to existing phone hardware, IriTech can turn a smartphone into an iris recognition device. This technology will be especially applicable for mobile payment and cloud services. We are in discussions with several phone manufacturers about incorporating this technology in future products. The increased security provided by our Mobile Security Platform will help expand the use of smartphones even further.
fB: Please tell us about a recent deployment.
I: Our cameras are being used for UIDAI project in India, and we have achieved the leading market share. Additionally, our software is being utilized for BSP in India. The results have been positive, and as India expands the project, we will have even greater success. Our software is also deployed in a pilot program to add iris to the US-VISIT program, as one of two iris vendors.
fB: What vertical markets are you focusing on?
I: We are always trying to identify markets that could benefit from iris recognition. The added security that comes with implementing iris technology into any security system makes the technology desirable across industries. Our task is to identify those markets that are currently ready to utilize the technology. In the long run, as we continue to innovate and drive down costs, the technology will become even more economical across markets.
With that being said, even as we look to the future, we have to work with the market as it now stands. The big markets are national ID systems, border security, and defense. Governments are often the drivers of this kind of technology, and their projects are generally on a large enough scale to allow companies to profit. We are striving to show that the accuracy of our iris recognition technology makes these projects truly secure.
Additionally, there is an ever expanding commercial market. The first that comes to mind is banking. Internet banking, mobile payment, and online authentication can all be improved through iris recognition. The savings from reduced fraud make purchasing our services a no-brainer for the banking industry.
Cloud identity and access management is another growing market. Enterprises are rapidly shifting to the cloud as their employees expect access everywhere on any device. But traditional password management leaves a huge vulnerability for a company’s secure data. Supplementing existing security measures with iris recognition makes these systems safer.
fB: Where globally are you seeing the greatest growth?
I: Obviously, India is key to the biometrics industry. With a population of over 1.2 billion, the magnitude of their unique ID project task can hardly be understated. The UIDAI recently announced it has completed 200 million registrations, and has started the second phase of 400 million more. That’s over half a billion people who will have their biometrics linked to their ID. There is a huge potential market for innovation to learn ways to utilize these IDs to access goods and service.
Other Southeast Asian countries are also adopting biometrics. Some are doing national ID programs. Others are using them for specific sectors, such as healthcare. Others are improving their border security and immigration checkpoints. We are constantly looking for new partnerships to bring our solutions to these markets where our presence is currently limited.
Iris recognition is increasingly popular in the Middle East and other regions where its advantages outweigh cultural concerns over facial recognition or sanitary concerns over fingerprint touch sensors.
The USA is always in the forefront of adopting biometrics. Even though government and defense projects in the USA still make up a large share of the market, the US is showing growth in corporate and enterprise applications.
In sum, we see growth opportunities all over the globe.
fB: What is the greatest challenge facing the biometric marketplace today?
I: For iris recognition, the challenge has been cost. Bulky cameras used to cost over $10,000. But we have dramatically reduced the cost to make iris cameras competitive with fingerprint sensors. Our low-cost, compact cameras offer a truly mobile solution.
Convenience. It may seem like an odd answer, but convenience is a large reason biometrics aren’t incorporated into more systems, especially on the commercial level. Biometrics frequently seek to either replace or complement passwords, PINs, or other authenticators. This isn’t really something unique to biometrics, though. We hear countless news stories about how passwords are easily hacked or people fail to choose sufficiently secure passwords. Pet names, birthdays, etc. are all chosen because they are easier to remember, even though they are lousy for security. Users don’t want to wait for a fingerprint sensor or iris scan to identify them when they can access a system by keying a 4-digit code.
This obstacle is overcome through both education and engineering. Public awareness about security is always increasing. People intuitively know that they need strong passwords, but sometimes they underestimate the risk of attack. Increasing awareness about the reality of security threats should lead to wider adoption of biometrics.
Engineering and design are key too. Biometrics need to be non-intrusive, otherwise people will stick with passwords and pins. If matching speeds are as fast as passwords, then biometrics will be more widely adopted. Iris recognition has come a long way, but still has room for improvement. Matching speeds are superb. Today’s cameras are much more advanced and user friendly than the original technology. We are close to a point where there will be a sudden surge in growth of widespread, commercial adoption of biometrics.
fB: What can we expect to see from IriTech in the future?
I: IriTech is always committed to research and development, advancing the best products at the best prices. As we work with customers and better understand their needs, we can provide the updates and improvements necessary to meet their requirements.
One example is IriShield. To best fit our customers’ needs, it will be sold three different ways, as an iris chipset, iris camera module, and encased device. The chipset will enable customers with advanced manufacturing ability to mass produce their applications at the lowest possible cost. The camera module is an OEM component that removes the drudgery of hardware design and manufacture for the customers. The encased device is ready to use and useful for software developers or other value added resellers. In this way, IriTech helps enable our customers’ success.
We are always looking for exciting and innovative ways to implement our technology. It’s hard to know what will happen in the future, but we hope to be on the cutting edge, advancing iris recognition and biometrics.
IriTech, Inc., headquartered in Fairfax, VA, offers advanced iris-based identification technology and products that address positive identification needs in financial, law enforcement, homeland defense, and intelligence markets to combat fraud, identity theft, crime, and terrorism. IriTech focuses on continuing innovation in iris identification, delivering modular software and hardware products in an open business model, and addressing markets ranging from national solutions to individual mobile devices.