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How Does a Retinal Scan Work?

Retinal scans are used in many security systems. It is a form of an identification system, and considered to be safer than access cards (which can be stolen or faked).

Retinal scans are based on the principle that each human eyeball is unique. This was confirmed in the 1930s, though it took several decades before people were able to develop the technology to take advantage of this. In fact, the first retinal scanner was only released in 1984 by EyeDentify. The company continues to be one of the biggest manufacturers of this security device.

How does a retinal scan work? Basically, a person stands in front of the device (taking off any glasses) and looks at the “dot” on the screen. It is important for the person to remain motionless for at least 15 seconds.

The retinal scan is thought to be virtually impossible to “fool.” To date, there is no technology that allows a person to manufacture or forge a human retina. While some movies and books try to play with the concept of the bad guy murdering somebody to harvest his eyeball, the fact is that the retina decays too quickly after death to be used in a scan.

Retinal scans are similar to fingerprint scans. Both belong to the field of biometrics, which centers on the study and development of methods of identifying people. Retinal scans have a higher accuracy level than fingerprint scans. For example, fingerprints have a 1 in 500 chance of error. Retinal scans only have a 1 in 10 million chance of error.

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