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CNN Today

US Airways Debuts Iris-Scanning ID Technology; EyeTicket CEO Discusses 'Most Accurate Biometric'

Aired July 24, 2000 - 1:32 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: You may have to show more than your driver's license next time you board a US Airways flight in Charlotte, North Carolina. The airline is debuting a procedure that scans our irises. That's the colored part of our eyes.

Our technology correspondent, Rick Lockridge, joins us from the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport with more.

Hi, Rick.

RICK LOCKRIDGE, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Hi there.

Well, you know, you probably already new that your iris is the colored part of your eye, like you said, but how long have you -- have you ever really taken a good look at it? Let's zoom in and take a look at the features that are in every person's iris.

I realize this face is not necessarily designed for closeups, but if you get in real tight there you'll see that the iris has a unique- to-every-person pattern of flecks and speckles and freckles. They call it crips (ph) and furrows. And those markings can be calculated to make up a password that is unique to each individual using the EyeTicket technology that's being demonstrated at the Charlotte Airport here today. So let's give you a look at how that works.

Over here at the scanner, Maggie is going to be looking into the iris-scanning device. And then on the monitor to your right, you can see that her iris there, shown in black and white, and the patterns in it are showing up.

Now, those patterns -- the picture itself isn't going to be saved, but the patterns within her iris will be converted into a password that's made up of letters and numbers that's 512 characters long. And if you think about your four-digit PIN, for example, you can see that a 512-character password would be very much more secure than the one you're accustomed to using with your bank card.

So the science behind iris-scanning technology is pretty well developed, but will passengers go for it?

Well, joining me now is Stewart Mann, who's with EyeTicket.

And, Stewart, why did you decide that iris-scanning technology would be the preferred mode of security going into this new age?

STEWART MANN, CEO, EYETICKET: Well, we believe that iris recognition is the most accurate biometric. As we use it here, it's not necessarily a security product, it's a commerce product. The advantage we have is being able to recognize each person positively and then more fully automate the process.

LOCKRIDGE: Let me just get into that a little bit. Each person's iris is so unique, in fact, that, according to the science, the odds of having any two be alike enough to confuse the device is just an astronomical number, isn't it?

MANN: Indeed, yes, it is.

LOCKRIDGE: It's something like 10 to the 78th power -- a number so long there's not even a word for it.

MANN: A lot of zeros.

LOCKRIDGE: And if you had colored contact lenses, for example, or eyeglasses or perhaps cataract surgery, would that be enough to influence the outcome?

MANN: Contacts, no. Glasses and contacts and colored contacts, no. And as a general rule, surgeries are tolerated very well.

LOCKRIDGE: Now, you have to be enrolled, as we saw Maggie there getting enrolled. You have to have your iris data entered into the database before you can go through a system like this. Do you think that passengers are likely to regard that as an intrusive measure? Sometimes people don't necessarily like to have information, whatever it is, stored about them in any kind of database.

MANN: Well, I think, first, we know we have all manner of information about ourselves stored in databases. You know, this is just unavoidable today. But the advantage of what EyeTicket does is this: We maintain no private information whatsoever -- no private data. We don't maintain address or phone numbers or any other of the data that the carriers or the airports or whomever may maintain.

LOCKRIDGE: Commonplace in airports in how many years would you say?

MANN: Well, we've certainly begun here, we've begun in Europe, and we certainly intend to ratchet it up before the end of the year.

LOCKRIDGE: Thanks very much.

MANN: Thank you.

LOCKRIDGE: Well, in fact, they have tried it out here, and also at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, so perhaps, Kyra, this is the beginning of an age when the only ID you'll need to get through an airport or perhaps even use an ATM will be your irises -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And for those who forget their wallets, like me, it's a very good thing. Thanks, Rick.

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