Iris scanning is the process by which a computer is able to scan features of your eyeball to collect biometric information that can be used for verification or identification purposes, much like fingerprinting can be used to verify or identify a person by the unique design of their fingerprints. As it turns out, the features of the eyeball's iris varies from person to person too.
Current iris-scanning technology is limited and requires relatively close proximity to work. Software applications are available that can use facial and iris scanning capabilities to unlock a smartphone or a computer, but you typically have to be sitting within 8 to 14 inches from the camera for it to work.
Improved technology, which has been developed over the years by Carnegie Mellon University, has been in testing that could greatly improve this distance and allow for iris scanning from up to 40 feet away from the person you're trying to identify.
With such a great distance being involved, this obviously isn't something you would use on your personal computers. Instead, it's something that could potentially be of use to law enforcement officers or military personnel that need a safe way to identify a person from a distance without putting themselves in danger.
A group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University were able to successfully test the technology in a law enforcement-like scenario by capturing an infrared high-resolution image of a person's face from the side-mounted mirror of a car as the person sits in the car and looks back at the "officer" who would be using the imaging device. This would be a likely scenario from someone being pulled over by a police officer since they typically want to see what's going on behind them as they wait.
Below, a video demonstrates the technology being used on Marios Savvides, the director of the project:
The results successfully picked up the on the identity of the person in question from 43 feet away.
There are some challenges that the long-distance iris scanning technology faces, however. For example, it's possible that someone trying to dodge the recognition device could wear some contact lenses with built-in eye cosmetic designs that could disturb the iris scanning process.
Moreover, there are also issues with privacy that need to be addressed. It could be considered a major invasion of a person's rights for someone to have and use an imaging device capable of identifying the person from 40-feet away without the person even knowing it's happening to them.
Such technology falling into the wrong hands could have upsetting consequences, but put in the right hands, it could improve the jobs of public servants.
Sources: Carnegie Mellon University via Discovery News