If you’ve ever studied genetics, you know that eye color is determined by your parents. That’s just about the first lesson students learn. But what your biology teacher probably skipped is that a whole lot of other things happen in the womb to create the patterns, freckles, and other details of your eyes and they have nothing to do with who bore you.
Per the US Federal Bureau of Investigation “The iris develops during prenatal growth through a process of tight forming and folding of the tissue membrane.” (It’ll be clear in just a paragraph or two of this paper why the FBI cares about any of this). “Prior to birth, degeneration occurs, resulting in the pupil opening and the random, unique patterns of the iris.”
The result? Your irides (that’s plural for iris) are just as unique as your fingerprints. And that makes them great candidates for distinguishing you from the rest of humanity.
Imagine a device connected to a database with your unique “iris code” that can prove your identity. Good bye passport, computer passwords, and work ID badge (I never liked that photo). Iris identification might also be used by healthcare organizations before handing over medical records and prescriptions. In an accident, emergency personnel could quickly identify victims.
Image: Irides with iris code, from FBI.gov
It’s not a new idea. Ophthalmologists suggested back in the 1940s that the patterns of the iris were unique to the individual and could be used for identification. The drawback? Unlike fingerprints, it takes more than an ink pad and magnifying glass to tell two irides apart.
It requires optics, infrared lights, electronics, and an algorithm, much of which didn’t exist in the 1940s. In fact, the algorithm was only developed in the 1990s. As such, iris recognition systems have only begun to take off within the last 20 years or so.
Who’s using them? Police, airports, and other security-minded organizations. In fact, India is busily recording the iris codes of all of its 1.2 billion citizens for a national ID program. And the United Arab Emirates have been using them at their border crossings since 2000s.
Image: “IrisGuard-UAE.”via Wikipedia
At the forefront of this technology, you’ll find SRI International, a nonprofit, research center with a history going back to the 1920s. SRI companies invented color television and the LCD. Their innovations paved the way for CD-ROMs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs. They even helped Walt Disney decide where to put his first park.
More recently, the organization created a handheld biometric system that can record facial and iris images in the field—in places like concerts, football games, and military checkpoints.
The design challenges for the new IOM RapID-CAM? It had to be rugged, but light enough to hold in one hand. It had to work quickly, so lines wouldn’t back up as subjects’ eyes were recorded or identified. Of course, under public conditions you can’t expect the operator to get up too close to the subject. So, it had to work from a comfortable distance.
The video below demonstrates the result:
Inside the case, the IOM RapID-CAM includes all the sophisticated technology of an iris identification system—electronics, optics, etc. And that means it integrates ideas from multiple disciplines into one design. To ensure it all came together smoothly, the SRI team turned to PTC Creo and Unite technology.
With Unite technology, SRI is able to use data from other CAD systems in PTC Creo data without the need for the original authoring CAD system. Designers can incorporate CATIA, Siemens NX, and SolidWorks data directly into their designs.
“PTC Creo’s Unite Technology allowed us to seamlessly incorporate CAD files from numerous sources, which made it possible for us to accept changes from suppliers or re-purpose the data ourselves,” says John Margicin, Design Engineer. Today, the organization reports that with PTC software, they’ve shaved 15% off product development time.
Read more about PTC customers and the remarkable engineering challenges they conquer every day, all over the world. Visit our Case Studies page. And then sign up for our newsletter, PTC Express, to meet even more PTC customers like SRI International each month.