High-Impact Entrepreneurship

The eyes have it: Endeavor Jordan tech firm IrisGuard makes inroads around the world

A recent article, IrisGuard Makes Inroads, from Mideast Banks to U.S. Prisons, on Bloomberg.com (summarized below) discusses the evolution of identification technology. Jordan-based Endeavor company IrisGuard is a leader in the field, and company founder, CEO and Endeavor Entrepreneur Imad Malhas articulates the bright possibilities for iris-recognition systems.

New technology, the growth of online services and a rising number of cases of fraud demand new solutions for electronic identification. IrisGuard, and companies like it, have developed and are promoting biometric alternatives to finger prints, debit cards and pin numbers. Iris-recognition is the fastest growing of the new technologies, and has a number of advantages. Each person’s iris (the colored part of the eye that takes in light) is unique and remains the same throughout a lifetime. In a span of ten seconds, an IrisGuard (or similar iris-recognition) device can take a digital picture of the eye, algorithmically convert it to a template and compare it to others in a database. The results are faster, more hygienic, and more accurate than using fingerprints.

Such technology has been successfully adopted in the financial services industry and has wide implications in several sectors. Cairo Amman Bank was the first in the world to adopt IrisGuard in 2008 and it now uses the identification system in its 87 branches across Jordan and Palestine. Nearly 65,000 customers participate in “eye-only” transactions, to the satisfaction of the bank’s CEO, Kamal Al-Bakri. “A person’s iris is nontransferable, it cannot be lost, stolen, forgotten, borrowed, or duplicated.”

The United Arab Emirates was the first country to use IrisGuard technology in border control operations. It has already been successful in catching deported workers trying to re-enter the UAE on new documents. Jordan is following suit, enrolling every visitor that enters. This year IrisGuard began selling cameras to India’s Unique Identification Authority, which aims to register all 1.2 billion citizens. In the United States, the Intake Service Center, the law enforcement agency that processes convicts, has installed IrisGuard technology to register all current and incoming inmates. Using IrisGuard technology, officials can access a person’s criminal history in the FBI database in less than three minutes, a drastic improvement over the 20 to 60 minutes required using fingerprints.

There are limitations to the new technology. It’s ideal for institutions with large existing databases, but impossible to use in solving crimes (“you can’t leave your iris at a crime scene”). It also has high up-front costs, and is not currently ubiquitous enough for companies to do away with old methods of identification. Regardless, Malhas remains optimistic. The need for biometrics seems to be growing, and potential is particularly strong in the banking sector. Before the tide of unrest in the Middle East, IrisGuard’s 2011 sales were on target to double from $5.08 million in 2010. The company has been in the black since it was created in 2005 and has every indication of continuing a pattern of strong growth.

Click here for additional coverage on how IrisGuard (and similar technologies) is improving global airport security, from Fox News.

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