Will Latest CMU Invention Make Fingerprinting Obsolete?

A Carnegie Mellon University Engineering Professor had police officers in mind in creating the first effective long-range iris scanner.


The natural reaction of anyone pulled over by police is to glance in the rearview mirror. With that little twitch, Marios Savvides, a CMU engineering professor and director of CyLab Biometrics Center, has found a way to determine the driver’s identity.

Savvides says that he has invented the first effective long-range iris scanner. The machine works by scanning a person’s irises from a distance, and then checks a database to try to find a match. This scanner could be used by police to identify potentially dangerous suspects from afar, but Savvides says it could also replace government ID’s and laptop login systems.

Since no two people have the same irises, the scanner is a long-distance alternative to fingerprinting. It can detect individuals’ identities from a range of six to 12 meters, so it doesn’t get all up in your space.

“Fingerprints, they require you to touch something. Iris, we can capture it at a distance, so we’re making the whole user experience much less intrusive, much more comfortable,” Savvides told “The Atlantic.” “It will find you, it will zoom in and capture both irises and full face.”

When asked about the security and privacy implications of his device, Savvides said he considers other threats that are much more serious.

“People are being tracked, their every move, their purchasing, their habits, where they are every day, through credit card transactions, through advantage cards—if someone really wanted to know what you were doing every moment of the day, they don’t need facial recognition or iris recognition to do that. That’s already out there,” he told the Atlantic.



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