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Eye scan unlocker for Galaxy S5: how does it work?

Kris Carlon
17

Apple has the fingerprint scanner, HTC the biometric sensor, Google just got the patent for interpretive sign language and now Samsung looks to be the first smartphone manufacturer to feature an eye scanner with which to unlock your smartphone. Before I get onto jokes about thieves plucking out your orbs to spam your Facebook contacts, I must remind you this is just a rumor for now.

S5 Eyeball Scanner
This could be the way to unlock your S5 - just look at it. / © AndroidPIT/Tnooz

The rumor comes from AndroidSaS, who also claim the new flagship will launch at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next year from February 24th – 27th. They cite ''Korean reports'' and ''sources'' but fail to mention where these sources work, whether they are credible and what agency produced the mysterious Korean reports. So we'll call this one a solid rumor for now. Still, Samsung included facial recognition in the S2 and have all sorts of fabulous eye tracking tech in their current flagship, so this makes perfect sense for a company obsessed with gestures and sensors.

The next question is: is an eyeball scanner any more secure than a fingerprint scanner? The answer is yes. Firstly, there are two kinds of eyeball scanner: iris and retina. The iris is the colored disc at the front of the eye and simply requires a camera to scan it, making it the obvious choice for the S5. Retinal scanning scans the blood vessel pattern in the retina, which is the surface at the back of the eye, making it near impossible to fake, and the pattern remains remarkably stable throughout one's life and in various conditions. Of course, in either case, an eyeball is much harder to ''lift'' than a fingerprint, while providing the same level of identification. Iris scanning is quite quick, while retinal scanning is much slower.

eye
The window to your soul and the key to your phone. / © stock.xchng

If this rumor is true, the Samsung eye scanner will let users log into their phone and, well, who knows what else. There's very little information at this point, but the reported MWC launch sort of fits in with the earlier news about a premature S5 launch date due to disappointing S4 sales performance. While the previous report put the announcement in mid-January with a February market start, the end of February for a launch isn't so unlikely either. But suffice to say, the 64-bit processor powered Galaxy S5 will make its debut earlier than expected, and possibly as soon as three months from now.

What do you think about eyeball scanning in smartphones? Better or worse than fingerprint scanners or just another gimmick entirely?

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Comments

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  • Amy R. 6 months ago Link

    I understand the concept but don't really see the need for one on your phone, unless you have a lot a people who like to steal your phone from you. I would think it would really suck if someone was to use one in the future then later have a cataract form. It would completely trip the accuracy reasults.

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  • clinton 6 months ago Link

    eye scanners? bio-metrics? this is Crazy!! K.I.S.S. KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID. keep it simple

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  • Dougie Lawson 6 months ago Link

    I hope it's just used for ID and not for password. It should be blindingly obvious that if you use it for a password then you're up a gum tree if it gets compromised twice. Same goes for fingerprints, those ten unique prints you have could run out fairly quickly.

    I'm a firm believer that a written userid and a frequently updated password or pass phrase is better (tried and tested technology) than any of this personal biometric stuff. I'm assuming that folks know how to make good passwords (not "1234" or "password" or "qwerty") and know how and how often to change them.

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  • Bojan M. 6 months ago Link

    Although it's still another gimmick, this one I like. It's safe (safer biometric authentication method than using fingerprints). Of those two iris is the way to go. As long as they keep the other options it's fine.

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 6 months ago Link

    not bad. I like it...

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  • Eduardo Sousa 6 months ago Link

    It's a great feature, but truly using it on regular basis i need to be 007 (James bond). What i meant to say is finger prints and eye ball scanner stuff like this are great until your phone carries a vital information like a businessman or security agents, but a common person i really don't see of much use, other than bragging my friends about having a ultimate security system on my phone.

    I rather look for something like "lost and found feature which gives you exact location of the phone without connecting to internet".

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 6 months ago Link

    but the nice thing is not to have to enter your sometimes freakish long passwords in the phone...

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  • Paul Taylor 6 months ago Link

    Not really understanding why iris scanning is so much more secure than fingerprints - surely you can just lift the pattern from any sufficiently detailed digital photograph?

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 6 months ago Link

    you can lift it from the screen and that is usually directly near the scanner so you dont have to search for a fingerprint that much...

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    Kris Carlon 6 months ago Link

    The question is: just how necessary is it for regular users? If a password/pattern lock isn't all that easy to bypass and you have a remote wipe service then is the added layer of security all that important? I'd be more concerned with lowering my chances of having my phone stolen than having uncrackable security - after all, once it's stolen what do I care if I just remote wipe it anyway? I'm still not getting it back. I think the kill switch is more important than biometrics.

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 6 months ago Link

    that is true but let's talk about convenience...

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    Kris Carlon 6 months ago Link

    Good point - the whole thing is that iris scanning is quick and can be accomplished with the phone camera, retinal scanning is more complex and takes longer (as far as I'm aware). But how convenient either one is is questionable, especially if a fingerprint scanner works in a way you already use - eg the TouchID sensor on the iPhone home button. If you have to hold the phone up to your eye for a second or two it might just be easier to unlock another way.

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  • Bojan M. 6 months ago Link

    @Paul Taylor
    Real iris based eye biometrics scanners have various safe mechanisms that it's almost impossible to fool the scanner. Did you really think it would be that easy? Then it wouldn't be one of the best biometrics authentication/identification mechanisms, if not the single best method available at the moment. Fingerprint method actually has more problems than benefits in the long run and is much easier to bypass, but it's cheaper.

    @Kris Carlon
    This is gonna be iris scanner and probably not a sophisticated one at that. Retina vascular patterns scanners need NIR (near infrared light) source in order to be able to scan the blood vessels at the back of the eye. That's additional cost and it actually brings little or nothing to the security, i.e. if I remember correctly, iris biometrics is a better method.

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 6 months ago Link

    the easiest way which is also used in Face Unlock is to close the exes and open them again (sry forgot the english word for that)

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    Kris Carlon 6 months ago Link

    Thanks for the clarification @Bojan! I knew retinal scanning was slower, more complex and more expensive, but I didn't know it didn't really add anything to the level of security achievable by iris scanning.

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  • Bojan M. 4 months ago Link

    @Kris
    Sorry, didn't see your comment, so to add this: the one advantage the retinal scanning has is that retina vascular patterns aren't visible by naked eye or common cameras compared to iris patterns. But, the level of information or code you get from iris scanning is much higher and the generated code used for identification/authentication can be much more complex. Look at it this way: with retinal scanning you have a password which doesn't have to be too complex, as almost no one can find it out (at least not in any easy way), and with iris scanning you have a much more complex password and anyone can see it, but... you can't use it, if it's not your password. For common use, i.e. regular smartphone user, all these methods are more than enough, or even too much, to the point we call them "gimmicks". To actually cheat any of these methods (eye biometrics) you need quite the technology and skill and know-how, that it's not worth it or even not possible for a regular smartphone user. Personally, I don't care about fingerprint technology, but I'll gladly use eye biometrics on my future phone.

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    • User picture
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      Kris Carlon 4 months ago Link

      Hey @Bojan, I really appreciate your input on this. Would you mind adding your comments on eye scanners to the new forum thread I opened on this topic as well? I think it's good to have lots of detail on this as we'll definitely be ''seeing'' (haha) more of it in the future. Just search for ''eye scanners'' in the forums!

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