Fujitsu has released a smartphone that it claims is the first in the world to use iris scanning to replace passwords or fingerprint readers.
The Fujitsu Arrows NX F-04G, first displayed at Mobile World Congress earlier this year, comes with the usual accoutrements you'd expect in a smartphone. It has a 5.2-inch 1440-by-2560 resolution touchscreen, an eight-core Snapdragon 810 processor, NFC, and the Android 5.0 operating system.
But unlike most handsets, the Arrows NX F-04G's front-facing camera doubles as a biometric iris scanner to replace passwords for operating the phone and its apps. The software closes in on the irises, matches them to the version stored internally, and then grants access (or not).
Given the system, the camera specification on the phone seems a touch odd. The handset has a 21-megapixel camera on the back, but the iris-scanning front camera is a paltry two megapixels, which suggests either the iris-scanning software is very good or someone at Fujitsu economized a little too much.
Iris scanning has been around for a while and in controlled circumstances can be very useful. But attempts to introduce it on a commercial level have proven fraught with difficulties.
While – as far as we know – irises are individually unique, getting the hardware and software to scan them on a day-to-day basis is very difficult. For a start, if you wear glasses then they have to come off, which some people find a pain.
Then there's a host of other issues. The blood vessels in the eye can be damaged easily, by diseases such as diabetes, and the eye itself can be heavily dilated by a variety of legal (dilating eye drops from the optician) and by some illegal drugs.
Perhaps that's why, although "everybody" in the mobile phone biz is said to be looking into iris scanning as an authentication option – including Samsung, for example – Fujitsu appears to be the first to actually bring a device to market.
Whether or not Fujitsu can make the technology work in this handset, particularly with such a low-grade camera, remains to be seen. The NX F-04G has now been released in Japan, and we'll keep an eye out – pun intended – for reports of its scanner's efficacy. ®