Smartphone Security: Technologies Protecting Your Personal Data

Smartphones come with fingerprint unlocking or Iris technologies to prevent others stealing your data. But do you know how they work and which security is better?

Ashok Pandey
New Update
Smartphone Security

Where do you store all your personal data? A few people might say on their desktop or PC, but nowadays it’s more likely to be your handheld device that you carry with you entire day - smartphone. You clicks images, check emails, capture videos, use apps related to banks and many other activities. It is the place where you have your more precious data. Though you keep it with you all the time yet risk is there. It can be stolen, increasing the risk of misuse of your personal data.


Most of the new smartphones come with fingerprint unlocking or Iris technologies to prevent others stealing your data. But do you know how they work and which one is better? We spoke to Mr. Salil Prabhakar, CEO, Delta ID about it to know more about these technologies.

Mr. Salil Prabhakar, CEO, Delta ID Mr. Salil Prabhakar, CEO, Delta ID

How does fingerprint and Iris tech work? If possible, tell us about different sensors being used.


Both fingerprint and Iris are essentially scanning the pattern of the finger and eyes respectively, using a sensor. The kind of sensor being used is however, different. Fingerprint sensors in a typical smartphone use radio frequency waves reflecting off the contours of the fingerprint to essentially form the pattern. Other fingerprint sensors have used other alternative mechanisms. Iris sensors are using a regular camera sensor (same as the one used for taking pictures), though using an infra-red illumination (LED) to illuminate the eye. Infra-red light is used because the pattern in the human eyes is not visible in regular light for people with darker eyes, but it is visible in infra-red light. The iris sensor has an advantage over fingerprint - a small sensor can capture the entire eye, in case of fingerprint sensors, the smaller the size the smaller the scan area and worse the performance.

Which one is more secure and why; fingerprint or iris sensor?

Security in the realm of biometrics is measured using an attribute called False Acceptance Rate (FAR). FAR is essentially the probability that an imposter may be able to access the system using his or her own biometrics. Lower the probability, better the security. FAR is closely related to the amount of information an imposter has to match to fool the system, sort of equivalent of the number of digits in a password. The way nature has made us humans, iris has higher information content (richer pattern) compared to fingerprint. Hence, the iris sensor provides a password with more digits compared to the fingerprints, which has lower FAR and hence, iris sensor better security.


Efficiency of both – A Comparison!

It was very well understood from the beginning that fingerprints will have issues - the efficiency and reliability of fingerprints get affected by age and occupation. Fingerprints are known to not work for women or children with soft skin and older people who have brittle skin. Fingerprints for people in manual labour get wiped out or get damaged, hence do not match affecting the efficiency and reliability.

Iris, being a protected internal organ, does not get affected by external conditions, does not change with age or occupation. Hence, it is more efficient and reliable. With respect to response time, the current devices that have been used have certain technological limitations that force subjects to stand at specific distance and sensitive to motion etc. All this has now changed with the introduction of devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab Iris that includes the iris technology from Delta ID Inc.


Difference in cost for implementing in a device? 

Delta ID’s patented ActiveIRIS(R) technology and hardware designs has made iris in mobile devices inexpensive, certainly below fingerprints. Delta ID’s ActiveIRIS technology works with off-the-shelf hardware components - image sensors, plastic lens, LED that are widely available and heavily amortized due to widespread use in the industry.

Many companies use fingerprint scanner but only some have iris; any reason behind this?

Fingerprint was indeed the first to be introduced in mobile phones owing to the lead taken by major OEMs and also the readiness of the technology in terms of cost and size for usage in mobile phones. Delta ID was the first company in the world to bring iris technology to mobile phones in 2014, in the Fujitsu/DOCOMO F-04G mobile phone in Japan. Both biometric modalities have their pros/cons and are here to stay. Iris has been gaining traction owing to the reasons discussed above. The recent introduction of iris in the Samsung galaxy Note 7 further builds on the momentum behind iris. In the context of Aadhaar, at this point, only mobile phones with integrated iris are approved for use, so we will see more iris enabled devices in the near future in India.

security smartphones