January 10, 2014
What Are You Looking At? Samsung’s New Galaxy S5 May Include Iris Scanning Technology
Bryan P. Carpender for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
This April will bring new things: fresh flowers, renewal, springtime romance...and the new Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone. But this new flagship handset might have a little something extra that will set itself apart from the rest – a high tech iris scanner.“We’ve been announcing our first flagship model in the first half of each year, around March and April, and we are still targeting for release around that time,” Lee Young Hee, Samsung’s Executive Vice President, told Bloomberg's Jungah Lee. “Many people are fanatical about iris recognition technology. We are studying the possibility but can’t really say whether we will have it or not on the S5.”
When Apple released the iPhone 5S, it caught many competitors by surprise by featuring the Touch ID system, a biometric sensor that turns your fingerprint into your passcode. Apple raised the stakes and other smartphone manufacturers began to scramble their teams to keep pace with rapidly evolving technology and Apple’s innovations.
Samsung has been rumored to be developing a fingerprint scanner of its own, but it seems those plans have been abandoned in favor of the new optical scanning technology.
AN EYE FOR AN EYE
What’s cooler than a fingerprint scanner? Iris scanning! It’s cool enough for James Bond and is depicted in countless movies. Plus, it offers greater security than fingerprint scanning. But how does it work?
It involves the digital camera using visible and near-infrared light to capture a clear, high-contrast image of the iris. When the camera takes the image, a scanner plots the center of the pupil and the pupil’s edge, as well as the edge of the iris, eyelids and eyelashes.
The unique patterns of the iris are analyzed and translated into a unique code and stored. Then, the next time the eye is scanned, it compares the code to the iris, authenticating a match.
Though this iris scanner would distinguish it from other handsets – for a short while, at least – it is not the first time Samsung has used eye-tracking technology.
THE EYES HAVE IT
The Galaxy S4 already has the capability to track the movement and position of a user’s eyes. It analyzes where the user is looking and automatically scrolls a web page when the eyes reach the bottom of the screen. When the user looks away, the phone’s screen recognizes this, automatically putting the phone’s screen in standby.
Samsung is perfectly poised to introduce iris scanning as a security measure. Its market share is significant; Samsung makes one of every three smartphones sold worldwide. Now more than ever, the South Korean technology giant is constantly striving to add new features and innovations to its smartphone models.
A SLIGHT MISSTEP
Despite its eye-catching features (literally), sales of Samsung’s Galaxy S4 handset fell short of expectations, due partly to competition form Apple’s iPhone 5S and iPhone 5c, which Apple released in September 2013. The bigger reason for its lackluster performance is likely the similarity to its predecessor, the Galaxy S3. The lack of new design or features failed to capture the imagination of consumers.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Lee offered this explanation: “When we moved to S4 from S3, it’s partly true that consumers couldn’t really feel much difference between the two products from the physical perspective, so the market reaction wasn’t as big,” she said. “For the S5, we will go back to the basics. Mostly, it’s about the display and the feel of the cover.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE EYES...AND THE WRIST
While Samsung is playing coy about the possible inclusion of the iris scanner on the S5, it is more definitive about what else it has planned, specifically an updated model of the Galaxy Gear smart watch. “When we release our S5 device, you can also expect a Gear successor with more advanced functions, and the bulky design will also be improved,” Lee told Bloomberg.
Samsung is hoping to boost sales of the Galaxy Gear by adding health monitoring functions, including calorie tracking, heart rate monitoring and stress level tracking. “Health-care related functions will be the most inherently tied functions to future wearables,” explained Lee. “We see a very big potential from there.”
Despite high hopes for the Galaxy S5 and the new Galaxy Gear smart watch, Samsung still has a long road ahead. “The release of the S5 will be very important to Samsung,” says Lee Seung Woo, an analyst at IBK Securities Co. “Competition is going to intensify, and it’s not going to be an easy year for the company.”
Samsung better ensure it’s on point with its hand-eye coordination – or more accurately, wrist-eye coordination – because the competition is heating up like never before and across multiple device platforms.
2014 is going to be interesting, so keep an eye on things and we’ll see what develops.