Did you know a single fingerprint has 40 unique characteristics, but an iris has over 250? This is just one reason retina scans are increasingly being used for security purposes. The retina contains at least as much individual data as a fingerprint, but, unlike a fingerprint, is an internal organ and is less susceptible to either intentional or unintentional modification. Certain eye-related medical conditions and diseases, such as cataracts and glaucoma, can render a person unable to use retina-scan technology, as the blood vessels can be obscured.
Developed over 20 years ago, retinal scanning is one of the most well-known biometric technologies, but it is also one of the least deployed. Retinal scans map the unique patterns of a person’s retina. The blood vessels within the retina absorb light more readily than the surrounding tissue and are easily identified with appropriate lighting.
Retinal scanners are typically used for authentication and identification purposes. Retinal scanning has been utilized by several government agencies including the FBI, CIA, and NASA. However, in recent years, retinal scanning has become more commercially popular. Retinal scanning has been used in prisons, for ATM identity verification and the prevention of welfare fraud.
How Retina Scans Work
Casting an unperceived beam of low-energy infrared light into a person’s eye as they look through the scanner’s eyepiece performs a retinal scan. This beam of light traces a standardized path on the retina.
Once the scanner device captures a retinal image, specialized software compiles the unique features of the network of retinal blood vessels into a template. Retinal scan algorithms require a high-quality image and will not let a user enroll or verify until the system is able to capture an image of sufficient quality. The retina template generated is typically one of the smallest of any biometric technology.
Security equipment is constantly evolving and changing, and increasingly looks more like the props from science fiction films. Offices with high security needs can use retinal scanners to grant employees access to their workspaces or computers. These devices scan the unique patterns of a person’s retina to ensure that the correct individual can access restricted areas or information, and most experts agree that retinal scanners pose no health risk or other dangers to users.
The retina’s intricate network of blood vessels is a physiological characteristic that remains stable throughout the life of a person. As with fingerprints and iris patterns, genetic factors do not determine the exact pattern of blood vessels in the retina. This allows retinal scan technology to differentiate between identical twins and provide robust identification.
Retinal scanning is also used for medical diagnostic applications. Examining the eyes using retinal scanning can aid in diagnosing chronic health conditions such as congestive heart failure and atherosclerosis. Diseases such as AIDS, syphilis, malaria, chicken pox and Lyme disease, as well as hereditary diseases, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and sickle cell anemia, also impact the eyes and can be detected using retinal scan technology.
Doctors have long used a tool called an ophthalmoscope to look at the back of your eye. Retinal imaging allows doctors to get a much wider digital view of the retina. It doesn’t replace a regular eye exam, but adds another layer of precision to it. See your very best and contact Shofner Vision Center to schedule your next appointment online or call (615) 340-4733 today.