How iris recognition works

IrisGuard has been utilising iris scanning technology in the field since 2001.

The iris is unique to every individual, including identical twins. This means that iris recognition is one of the most reliable forms of biometric authentication, enabling us to identify one-out-of-millions in real-time, without the need for cards, PIN numbers, private keys or bank accounts.

To date, our iris recognition solutions have been used across 190+ countries and are validated by independent studies for their scientific reliability and accuracy. Read on, to find out how iris recognition works, as a precise and rapid biometric authentication solution…

Safe and Secure

How does an iris scanner work?

Our iris recognition solutions provide a simple and highly efficient way to identify individuals who may not otherwise have access to conventional physical identity tokens.  Essentially, this is how the iris scanning and enrolment process works:

  • The iris is photographed using a high resolution infrared camera to ensure crystal clear image from a distance of 20 - 30 cm away

  • Our contact-free devices automatically detect the iris and take a focused, pristine black and white image

  • Our mathematical algorithms convert the iris image into a unique digital code, which is enrolled into the iris database for storage and subsequent rapid matching. The verification process takes less than 3 seconds

We have secured nine patents, including pupil-dilation detection, off-axis gaze, video attack detection and more. Our technology is medically safe and does not harm the eye in any way.

Lifelong unique identifier

What is the iris? Understanding how iris recognition works

  • The iris is the only internal human organ visible from outside the body and an involuntary muscle that controls the amount of light entering the human eye

  • It is located in front of the lens and protected by the cornea and the aqueous humor

  • The organ is composed of detailed features and distinctive attributes, unique to every individual including identical twins

  • Each one of us has two unique irises created during a process called Random Morphogenesis (between 3-8 months of gestation

  • The pattern of the iris remains stable from around 18 months of age to end of life. This is important as it only ever needs to be registered once and will remain the same

  • This level of uniqueness combined with our algorithms ensures that the IrisGuard platform is 100% accurate without needing any other physical token such as passports or ID card, providing an accurate proof-of-life

  • Iris recognition is not typically used for CCTV style surveillance. Whilst it can be utilised as a secondary ID verification, it is challenging to capture enough biometric information from the iris at a distance or when in motion to make an accurate positive identification

How biometric authentication works so accurately

Quality Control & Countermeasures

Eye Drops

Pupil-dilating eye drops containing Atropine Sulphate and similar chemical compounds have been used in an attempt to fool iris recognition systems. Pioneered in 2005, IrisGuard’s patented technology detects abnormal dilation and alerts the operator to their presence in the eye

Contact lenses

Patterned contact lenses may hide the human iris and can fool the iris recognition system. All IrisGuard imagers are trained to detect pattern contact lenses by means of careful pattern-analysis and other effective countermeasures, preventing their use in lie operations.

Blink cancellation

A human blinks approximately 30 times a minute, lasting for a duration of roughly 400 milliseconds. IrisGuard ground-breaking blink technology analyses images at the rate of 40+ frames/second, prequalifying and precluding images that do not meet IrisGuard legendary quality controls.

Off-Axis look

There is an increased chance that a person will not be found by the iris recognition system if they simply look away from the camera. IrisGuard has off-axis technique and head-tilt detection that immediately alerts the operator.

Glass neutralization

The specular reflections that form on a person's glasses require them to remove their glasses before using some iris systems. IrisGuard has designed and patented a technology that allows the person to conveniently keep their glasses on while using our system.

Authenticity and liveness

IrisGuard images utilise patented techniques in both our hardware and software, which detect and stop high resolution images or video streams of a person's iris being used by an imposter.

Frequently asked questions

How iris recognition works


Is the iris unique?

    • Yes. No two people have the same iris pattern, not even identical twins. Furthermore, the iris in the left and right eyes are also different.

Is the iris affected by age?

    • No. The iris image remains stable from the age of 18 months throughout life.

Does the iris wear off like fingerprints?

    • No. The iris is protected by the cornea and does not wear off over time.

Is the iris imager safe to use? Are there any health risks associated with using our iris recognition technology?

    • There are no health risks associated with iris recognition. Iris recognitio technology simply uses a video imager to take a high-resolution grayscale pictures of the eye. All IrisGuard imagers are FCC and CE compliant and approved to meet international eye safety standards, including ANSI/EISNA RP27.1-96 and IEC 60825-1.2-2021.

Can the iris imager affect pregnant women?

    • No. The iris imagers use simple video photography to take a picture of the iris, there are no harmful radiations or any laser emissions whatsoever.

Can a dead person's eye be used for recognition?

    • No. The iris is an involuntary muscle and like all muscles it is fully relaxed when an individual dies, hence no iris is visible. Furthermore, after death, the cornea turns white from the lack of oxygen obscuring the entire eye.

Does the imager use any laser beam to capture the iris?

    • No. Iris recognition is completely safe because it uses simple video photography and special sensors that read the fine details of the person's iris without emitting any laser rays or x-ray or other harmful rays.

Is there any physical contact with the eye during the process?

    • No. Iris recognition is a contact-free technology. The person looks at the imager from a distance of 30cm and the imager takes a photograph of the iris and anayzes it to produce a special iris print used for identification. Due to the contact-free nature of the technology, no communicable diseases can be transmitted from one person to another.

Does iris recognition adapt to various nationalities?

    • Yes. Iris recognition works equally well with all types of irises irrespective of race, gender, age or ethnic background.

Can the system work with a one-eyed person?

    • Yes. The system does not require two irises to positively verify a person's identity, however, IrisGuard imagers are specially designed and capable of capturing both irises of a person at once to produce a perfect match.

Can the system work with a blind person?

    • A person must have one eye with an iris. There is a visual feedback via a mirror or LCD display to guide the user into alignment as well as an audio feedback if the user has difficulty aligning with the imager.

How fast is the iris system?

    • The process of acquiring two photographs of the eyes, computations and a verification are completed at high speed of less than three seconds.

Is it possible to use iris recognition to detect any illness or drugs and/or alcohol consumption?

    • No. Iris recognition technology is not capable of detecting the presence of an illness or alcohol or drug use. The iris system is not a medical eye-examination system, it merely takes a photograph of the eye and produces a match print.