Smartphone manufacturers are ready to count on the iris scanner to better protect their devices, given the fact that the iris has many features that can help distinguish one iris from another. Creative Commons

With hacking attacks becoming commonplace, the number of devices getting compromised is on the rise, requiring manufacturers to come up with more secure authentication processes to better take on intruders.

Leading smartphone makers like Samsung and Apple have been working to secure their flagship devices with biometric measures, and have incorporated fingerprint sensors into some of their popular handsets. Apparently, that’s not enough to avoid any unauthorized access to data saved in a mobile device, but manufacturers have already found a solution — a new security feature, which will scan users’ eyes before unlocking a device.

Dubbed the “iris scanner,” this security measure will work by capturing a user’s iris into a biometric template, storing the information and then comparing the scanned biometric with what is stored in the repository. Smartphone manufacturers are ready to count on this new feature to protect their devices, given the fact that the iris has many features that can help distinguish one iris from another. Because it is free from any genetic influence, even identical twins have differing irises.

Galaxy Note 7 Iris Scanner
A person uses a sensor for biometric identification on a smartphone in Berlin, Oct. 16, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Unlike other biometrics such as fingerprints, the chances of damaging an iris is minimal as it is protected behind the eyelid, cornea and aqueous humour — a transparent, watery fluid between the cornea and the lens. In addition, even aging doesn’t affect the iris, helping it remain in a stable form until death.

Microsoft is one of the first companies to realize the potential of an iris scanner. Its Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, launched in October last year, came with the feature that allowed users to unlock their phones without a password. Other than the higher-resolution rear-facing camera and the lower-resolution camera, the handsets also carried two other cameras — one of them being infrared — to take pictures of users’ eyes.

If ongoing rumors are to be believed, Samsung is now following Microsoft’s footsteps, and will launch the upcoming Galaxy Note 7, equipped with an iris scanner. The South Korean conglomerate is also reported to have outlined the way its iris processing system would work in a recent patent filing. Although the company didn’t name any product, it said that the feature could apply to a wide range of products like laptops, tablets, smartphones, wearables, IoT devices, digital cameras and more.

“The iris recognition system may generate an image signal by capturing images of the face and eyes of a user which are in a field of view for the iris recognition system,” Samsung patent filing said. “In various embodiments, the iris recognition system employs three lenses to capture the image signal, and then checks the iris of the user based on the image generated as well as other information.”

If it turns out to be true, the iris scanner will indeed be the biggest selling point of the Galaxy Note 7. However, there are concerns that the new feature may not be able to properly perform for users wearing glasses or contact lenses. According to a set of leaked pictures of the Galaxy Note 7’s iris scanner setup, the feature’s performance could also be affected in various other situations, such as direct sunlight or low-light conditions.

Apple was also rumored to be looking into iris scanning in the past, but Taiwan’s DigiTimes reported Monday, citing anonymous industry sources, that iPhones are unlikely to feature iris scanners until 2018. The latest report contradicts previous rumors that said Apple’s 2017 high-end iPhone model will sport exciting new features such as wireless charging and new biometric recognition technology like face and iris scanning.

Rumors have it that the iris scanning technology on the iPhone could be paired with Touch ID, or Apple could potentially replace the traditional home button with an iris scanner, Apple Insider reported, adding that the California tech giant could name the successor to Touch ID as “Iris ID.”

Besides Samsung and Apple, Chinese smartphone makers like LeEco, Xiaomi and 360 Qiku are also reportedly developing their own biometrics recognition solutions that are expected to be the next big trend in the mobile industry.