Biometrics: Iris Recognition VS Retinal Scanning

With increasing security concerns, Biometrics serve to be the optimal alternative to traditional security methods such as passwords, patterns, key cards etc. Biometric identification is an approach based on identifying an individual through unique human characteristics. Although fingerprint scanning is the most well-known form of biometrics, we will talk about other mechanisms that are harder to spoof or break. We will consider eye-based identification, or “ocular-based” identification techniques namely Iris recognition and Retinal Scanning, both the techniques uses some part of the eye for the identification purposes. These ocular techniques of identification are quite secure and unique biometric modality these days.

What is Iris recognition?

Iris is a delicate, circular structure in the eye, responsible for regulating the size of the pupil and the amount of light entering into the eye. Eye color is defined by the color of the iris.

Iris recognition is a biometric identification method that opts for a mathematical pattern-recognition technique by the video image of the irides. These patterns are complex and unique for every individual thus serving to be a means of distinctive identification. For verification and validation these video images are converted into digital templates and stored in the database and whenever an unauthorized individual attempt for spoofing or fraudulent, the digital image of the iris is compared with the ones in stored in database and will result in negative identification.

iris scanning

Read Also : Revamp your Security Mechanism- Go Passwordless

What is Retinal Scanning ?

Retina is a fine tissue constituting neural cells in the rear part of the eye. The structure of the capillaries responsible for supplying blood in the retina is quite complex in structure, thus making each person’s retina unique. The blood vessels in the retina is not genetic thus two twins even will not be sharing a similar pattern of retina.

During the retina scanning process a low-beam infrared light is cast onto the person’s eyeball and the blood vessels inside the retina absorbs this light. Reflections during the absorption of this light vary with varied eye and thus generating a unique pattern. This varying pattern is converted into computer code and stored in the database for future reference. Apart from the security systems, retinal scanning also has medical applications including detections of AIDS and various chronic diseases since the effect first appears on the eyes.

retinal scanning


  • Reliable and fast results.
  • Almost 0% false negative results.
  • Ideal for operating over large databases.
  • Doesn’t require re-enrollment with age.
  • Images generated are highly invasive and inherently safe.
  • Eliminates Spoofing probabilities.
  • Requires few space, unlike fingerprints which requires significant space.


1. Stability

Since the retina can be affected by diseases, thus one cannot guarantee the accuracy of retina scan while the Iris texture remains undisturbed from birth till death. Thus, Iris scan accounts for a better stability.

2. Mode of Capturing the Image

An iris scan uses a normal digital camera to capture high quality images from a distance of 3-10 inches while a retina being an internal part, the eyeball must be brought real close to the eyepiece to capture the image as if one is looking into a microscope.

3. Ease of Routine Operability

Since infrared light is shot into the eye for a retinal scan it is annoying and people claims for discomfort while going through it. Iris recognition is a mere photographic process which can be done from a distance thus is easy to operate.

4. Precision

Since retinal scanning takes a lot of time while enrollment, it eliminates all the imprecise aspects that might reduce the manipulation probability to nil. A digital image in case of Iris Scanning may be manipulated by a high quality picture of a face, but there’s certainly nothing that can replicate the unique structure of the human eye.

Read Also : How To Get Face Unlock Feature On Your Android

Applications in Real World

Retinal Scanners are much more complex, thus accounts for their low commercial acceptance rate but they are adopted at the sections where tight or high-end securities are required such as a military base, border-crossing security initiatives, several government agencies such CIA and FBI. As mentioned earlier retinal scanning has been helpful for the medical sciences in detection of chronic and acute diseases.

Iris Scanners became very much popular in commercial sector due to its ease of use in security check of buildings, ATMs, corporate offices etc.

applications in real world

In summary, biometrics offer high security mechanism to the areas which are very prone to identity theft and frauds. There might be some shortcomings but we should never disgrace the technology by the drawbacks.

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