Author(s): Peter Bryer
Fujitsu and NTT DoCoMo have jointly released the Arrows NX F-04G smartphone in Japan. The device was announced alongside a family of new Android-based phones for DoCoMo, but the Arrows has a unique angle.
The phone's stand-out feature is iris scanning, which can be used as authentication for phone unlocking, mobile payments and logging into Internet services. Fujitsu and DoCoMo say that theirs is the world's first smartphone to include true iris scanning. There have been demonstrations of other iris-scanning phones in the past — ViewSonic, for example, displayed such a smartphone model in late 2014 — but these products have yet to reach the market.
At Mobile World Congress 2015, CCS Insight noted Fujitsu's iris-scanning smartphone prototype as impressive enough to start a trend among device manufacturers (see Daily Insight: Multimodal Biometrics).
The technology behind Fujitsu's Arrows, ActiveIRIS, is supplied by California-based Delta ID. ActiveIRIS uses an integrated LED light and infrared camera to quickly read the eye from up to 50 centimetres away.
The Arrows phone is for Japanese consumers only, but will be an interesting trial for other markets. Biometrics have gone from being a stand-out feature to a flagship phone requirement over the past year, and the technologies are being driven to lower price bands. We've noted new fingerprint sensors from the likes of Qualcomm and Vkansee that could make readers more robust and increase usability, driving their use further (see Daily Insight: The Dirt on New Biometric Methods).
Delta ID isn't alone in developing iris-scanning technology for phones, tablets and laptops — Samsung, for example, is working with SRI International to implement the feature in devices. SRI International is the firm behind the Apple's Siri voice-recognition system.
Iris and retina scans have worked their way down from top-level enterprise implementations toward mainstream devices. Iris recognition is joining a host of other biometric authentication methods on personal devices and connected products for the home, replacing passwords and physical keys with a look. This is something for device makers to keep an eye on.