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Fraunhofer IPMS launches prototype for compact biometric retinal scanner, set to demo at Optatec


The Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) has announced that scientists from the group will be demonstrating a prototype of a new small retinal scanner at Optatec, set to take place May 20-22 in Frankfurt, Germany.

Specifically, according to an announcement from the company, the approximately 650 cubic centimeter retinal scanner is suitable for those who wear glasses and is ergonomically correct for the human hand.

Unlike an iris scanner, this particular retinal scanner captures the blood vessel pattern of the retina for identification and verification applications.

“The silicon-based microelectronic components are no bigger than tiny microchips,” the company says in its announcement. “They deflect the optically-safe laser beam in a way that makes it possible to touch the retina in a targeted manner and allow the built-in optical instruments to produce an image of the retinal surface from the reflected laser beams. Since the blood vessels of the retina reflect less light than the rest of the surface of their nerve cells, their pattern can be mapped in a graphically distinct way and compared with one of its owner that was previously stored. This pattern is uniquely individual to each human being, just like a fingerprint, the iris, the facial features or the voice, and proves his or her identity.”

Optatec, set to be held later this month is an international trade show for optical technologies.

According to the company, this particular prototype is a result of the MARS research project, sponsored by the BMBF. MARS stands for “Mobile Authentication via Retina Scanner.” By the end of the project, the company says it also wants to have integrated the electronics so that the device is only minimally larger. The final phase of the MARS project deals with improving understanding of the technology through experimentation.

“It’s still a long way until we can integrate the technology into a smartphone. Another possibility would also be small accessory modules that communicate with the smartphone via Bluetooth, NFC or WLAN. Perhaps that is also the more prudent option in the first stage, since smartphones are still too unsecure,” Uwe Schelinski, group manager of Systems Integration at IPMS said. “The scans remain on the device and do not land in a database [and] I am more willing to scan myself with my own device than with a permanently installed third party system. Before the technology can conquer the market, we have to build it even more compactly. Our prototype is an important milestone on this path.”

See BiometricUpdate’s explainer on retinal scanning technology here.

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