Your iPhone can be turned into a biometric scanning device

The Week
The app can be used for iris, face, fingerprint, and voice biometric capture.
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The app can be used for iris, face, fingerprint, and voice biometric capture.

Hello, future. Nice to make your acquaintance.

Today, a California tech company called AOptix is launching a tool that can turn an iPhone 4 or 4S into a handheld biometric scanning device. Imagine one of those gadgets in movies that scans your fingerprints and irises before letting you into a vault or a spaceship control room. Really.

The tool, called AOptix Stratus, includes both an app and a wrap-around device that hooks onto an iPhone using a 30-pin connector. The app, with a price tag of $199, collects basic data — images of faces, recordings of voices, and GPS coordinates. The device, whose presumably sky-high cost remains a mystery, does higher-level work, like scanning irises and fingerprints. The app then sorts the data into profiles, and with the tap of a finger sends that information to a network via the phone's internet connection.

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But before you send your tax return check directly to AOptix for a weekend of James Bond cosplay, hold tight. The Department of Defense footed the development bill — $3 million — back in February, and though AOptix doesn't release specifics about its customers, Wired claims they're essentially all from the U.S. government. "It's not a consumer application," Amanda North, AOptix's marketing vice president, told the magazine. 

The DoD's intention was to make biometrics light and easy for border control, airport security, and law enforcement agencies. As CNN explains, "Stratus could be used at border crossings, during disaster relief operations (when regular infrastructure for identity verification isn't present), for remote mobile banking, or even remote healthcare." 

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One has to assume it's intended for stealthier operations as well. The app has an automatic capture feature, says CNN, that can gauge how close a person is, then automatically snap away, collecting identity data and storing it in the system.

If you're feeling the Big Brother heebie-jeebies right about now, take this small bit of comfort: AOptix told CNN it follows the guidelines of the U.S. Department of Commerce when it comes to deciding where to sell. Meaning countries like Iran and North Korea won't be buying AOptix Stratus anytime soon. 

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