The UAE was the first country in the world to have introduced iris recognition. It was launched soon after the January 2003 amnesty granted by UAE authorities to illegal immigrants to leave the country. Since then over 47,000 banned foreigners have been arrested while attempting to re-enter the country.
Dr Daugman's application has a very high confidence, by mathematical analysis, of the random patterns that are visible in the iris of a person's eye from some distance. His algorithms for this process are the basis of all currently deployed iris recognition systems and have been licensed internationally, particularly in airports where governments allow the process to substitute for a passport.
On the UAE's experiment, Dr Daugman told a Press conference at the General Directorate of Abu Dhabi Police that it is the most important in the world and the first large scale deployment of the iris recognition.
He described the UAE's decision to introduce the technology as "wise", adding that the country had set model to be followed by other countries.
Dr Daugman said he presented the study on the experiment to Lt-Gen Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior, at their meeting on Saturday.
The ministry requires iris recognition tests on foreigners entering UAE from all air, land, and sea ports. Via Internet links each traveller is compared against each of 790,000 expellees (foreign nationals expelled for various violations), whose Iris Codes were registered in a central database upon expulsion. Approximately 200 billion iris comparisons have been performed so far, he pointed out.
Col Ahmed N. Al Raisi, Director-General of the General Directorate of Central Operation at Abu Dhabi Police, said since the launch of the system, some 47,385 matches have so far been found between persons on the watch list and persons seeking re-entry. All of these matches have ultimately been confirmed by other records, he added.
On how secure and accurate is the system, Dr Daugman said a false match probability does not accumulate in such large exhaustive searches, when the vast numbers of cross-comparisons generate vast opportunities for false matches.
"The mathematical feature of my algorithms defeats accumulation of error probability," he explained.
"Iris recognition technology combines computer vision, pattern recognition, statistical inference, and optics. Its purpose is real-time, high confidence recognition of a person's identity by mathematical analysis of the random patterns that are visible within the iris of an eye from some distance.
"Because the iris is a protected internal organ whose random texture is stable throughout life, it can serve as a kind of living passport or a living password that one need not remember but can always present.
"Because the randomness of iris patterns has very high dimensionality, recognition decisions are made with confidence levels high enough to support rapid and reliable exhaustive searches through national-sized databases," he said.
The algorithms for iris recognition were developed at Cambridge University by John Daugman. The idea of the technology struck his mind some 15 years ago, he said.
According to him, the major applications of this technology so far have been substituting for passports (automated international border crossing); aviation security, and controlling access to restricted areas at airports; database access and computer login; access to buildings and homes; hospital settings, including mother-infant pairing in maternity wards; "watch list" database searching at border crossings; and other government programmes.
In Britain, these algorithms are currently being considered for biometrically enabled National Identity Cards and passports, with feasibility trials soon to begin. Several airports worldwide have installed these algorithms for passenger screening and immigration control in lieu of passport presentation.
Expressing happiness for the success story, Col Raisi said the UAE's model would be patented under the Emirates name. It would be exhibited at international specialised forums including the US and the UK.
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