To enter the vault at One Safe Place in Preston Center, a customer must look into an eyepiece and get a retina scan. By the time the person walks from the scanner to the vault door, a computer has. made its decision; if the person is a legitimate customer, he or she is allowed to enter.
The eyes have long been known as the windows of the soul, but increasingly, the eyes are being used to open doors of vaults and other places where tight security is a must. Perception Systems Inc. of Dallas sells a $10.000 unit that takes a picture of the blood vessel arrangement of the retina using low-intensity infrared light and stores that picture in computer memory. To scan, you focus on the green pinpoint of light and press a button.
According to Charles Thompson, vice president of sales at Perception Systems, the retina scan is a large improvement over other identification methods: “Identification using fingerprints has a failure rate of 17.5 percent, and signature analyses 7.5 percent. Our system has a zero percent failure rate.” An August 1986 report by the Planning and Research Division of the Dallas Police Department on retina scans says. “The chances of a false acceptance (accepting an unauthorized individual) can be reduced to one fa a trillion.”
For the first time in history anyone can be positively identified. The possibilities are almost endless. Thompson says his company is working on placing the digitized eye scans on bank cards. When someone wants to make a withdrawal from an automatic teller machine, they will insert the card and lake a retina scan. If the cart! and the scan do not match, then no transaction is possible.
The first commercial retina-scanning device was sold to the military in 1983; since then almost 6,000 have been sold. Perception Systems has been in Dallas for one year and has sold twenty-seven units, ten of them for use in the Dallas area. Buyers include the FBI, IBM, and American Airlines.
Frank Campbell, president and owner of One Safe Place and one of the first to own an eye scanner in Dallas, says his security-conscious customers love the machine. “A lot of our customers wan! to remain anonymous. Some of them become just a retina and a box number to us,” he says.
Officer Mike Hornik of the Planning and Research Division says the Dallas Police Department is considering the new device, but that no plans have been made to purchase any. One of the scanner’s drawbacks for police work is that it can only scan focused eyes, so it’s no good for identifying dead or drunk people. “We certainly aren’t looking to supplant the fingerprint system,” Hornik says. “We would use it as a sort of collateral means of security.”