When the Chinese TV and smart phone maker re-entered the India market last month, it chose as its first offering, a handset -- TCL 560 -- which offered a new way to unlock the device: Eye Verify. Pre-record a scan of iris -- and then 'look' into the selfie camera every time you want to open the phone... a fool proof way to prevent others from doing so.
Iris scans are now recognized as one of the most secure ways of authenticating a person's identity since no two persons have the identical iris. To ensure you get a good image, The 560 combines a 5 megapixel from camera with an 84 degree field of view, with a HD IPS display. In other ways, this is a fairly standard dual SIM 5.5 inch phone running the latest Android 6.0 OS -- but the onboard eye scanner, opens up the exciting possibility that the phone could be tweaked to become a personal tool for a variety of authentication applications -- banking, passport control and most usefully, Aadhaar.
With over 1 billion Aadhaar cards issued, covering 85% of India's population, this has emerged as the world's largest digital ID system -- but the infrastructure to do an Aadhaar based ID check is so woefully inadequate that card- holders are yet to reap the full benefits. If every Aadhaar card holder is able to perform self authentication with a phone, it will dramatically reduce dependence on common service centres.
In fact officials of the Unique Identification Authority of India, have initiated discussion with leading manufacturers to see how smartphones with iris and fingerprint scanners can be embedded with the software to perform Aadhaar authentication -- in effect making them personal and portable verification. stations. It could be a game-changer -- and a global innovation -- in much the same way that electronic voting machines were, in an earlier era. Samsung has already put a UIDAI- approved iris scanner on a tablet for India for corporate use. Now TCL is signposting the way to make such technology even more ubiquitous by putting it on a Rs 7,500 device, affordable by individuals.