How Do Iris Recognition and Retina Scanning Enhances Digital Payment Security?

Iris Recognition and retina scanning are both ocular-based biometric identification technologies that are used as fraud prevention solutions. This means they rely on the unique physiological characteristics of the eye to identify an individual. Nevertheless, while this may inherently seem to make the process similar, or even the same, they are actually quite different. In this post, we will discuss the differences between iris scanning and retina scanning and why a company would choose to use one KYC solution over the other.

Eye Diagram

Retina Scanning

The retina is a thin tissue of neural cells located in the back of the eye. It contains a complex arrangement of capillaries which supply the retina with blood. Every human has a unique pattern of retinal capillaries. The network is so unique that even identical twins do not share the same pattern of capillaries. Retina patterns typically stay the same throughout the course of a person’s life; although, they can be altered by certain diseases like diabetes, glaucoma or retinal degenerative disorders.

During retina scanning, the unique pattern of a person’s retina is mapped. With the appropriate lighting the blood vessels in the retina can be identified. A retina scan is performed by casting a beam of low-energy infrared light into a person’s eye as they look through a scanner’s eyepiece at close range. As the light travels through the retina, the amount of light reflected varies. Retinal blood vessels absorb more of the light from the light beam than the rest of the eye, causing the variances in the reflection. The pattern of variations is then converted into a code that is stored in a database. Retina scanning is one of the most accurate forms of biometric technology, with an inaccuracy level of 0.0001% FAR. This makes it a powerful fraud prevention solution for security teams.

How Do Iris Recognition and Retina Scanning Enhances Digital Payment Security

Iris Scanning

 The iris is a thin, circular structure at the front of the human eye. It is responsible for dictating the size and diameter of the pupils, which determines how much light reaches the retina. The iris determines the color of the eye, and it varies from person to person. The larger the pupil gets, the more light can enter the retina.

During iris scanning, camera technology is used to acquire images of the iris with infrared light. Iris scanning obtains a detail-rich image mapping out the intricate structure of the iris. The image can then be converted into a mathematical and statistical pattern that can identify an individual. Databases contain these templates and are searched by matching engines at extremely fast speeds. False match rates with this technology is infinitesimally small. The NIST claims the technology is around 90-99% accurate. This makes it a scalable KYC solution for a variety of different security focused businesses.

The Similarities between the Two Fraud Prevention Solutions

The main similarity between iris scanning and retina scanning is that they both use the human eye for identification. Some other similarities between the two biometric methods include:

  • Low false positives
  • False negative rates are low
  • Reliable biometric method since no person has the same iris or retina pattern
  • Both methods authenticate individual identities quickly
  • An amputated eye cannot be used to gain access because both the iris and retina decompose too quickly

The Differences between the Two Biometric Methods

While both iris scanning and retina scanning use the eyes to biometrically identifying an individual, they are distinctly different than one another. On the one hand, iris scanning uses camera technology to capture an image of the iris. This makes it usable in customer-not-present scenarios, which is becoming more and more common in the digital age. Iris scanning is considered a nonintrusive method of biometric identification since an image of the iris can be taken from a distance.

Retina scanning, on the other hand, requires scanning a beam of light deep inside the eye to capture an image of the retina. It requires specific equipment to be performed and is better suited for in-person identification procedures. Retina scanning is a method of biometric identification that is more invasive than iris scanning since the retina is located on the back of the eye. It is less accepted as a KYC solution than iris scanning for this reason.

Some other differences between the two fraud prevention solutions include:

  • The retina can be altered by disease, while the iris remains mostly stable
  • Retina scans are 70x more accurate than iris scans
  • Iris scans capture an image of the iris from a distance, while retina scanning does it by placing the person’s eye near to an eyepiece
  • Retina scanning is best suited for physical identification
  • Iris scanning can take place in physical and digital scenarios
  • Retina scanning takes longer to complete than iris scanning
  • Iris scanning is more widely accepted for commercial use than retina scanning

Afghanistan Begins Biometric Registration of Civil Service Employees

In a recent turn of events, Afghanistan’s Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC) is now registering biometric data of all civil service employees. The first person registered in the new Human Resources Information Management System (HRIMS) was the head of IARCSC. Biometrics and retinal scanning bring both challenges and improvements to identity verification and security.

AMBIS Biometric Identification Ready for Deployment in India in 2020

AMBIS (Automated Multi-Modal Biometric Identification System) is now ready for full deployment across Maharashtra, India. THis system was developed to assist law enforcement with identity verification. AMBIS was developed in France based on National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) and process guidelines. According to India Times, ” Equipped with an advanced face recognition technology, the system can be connected with the CCTV cameras installed at railway stations, airports, traffic signals, markets and bus stands.” This will have a huge impact on crime and fraud prevention in India.


Differentiating between iris scanning and retina scanning is important if your company is considering investing in biometric technologies for security. It can help your team determine which scanning method is the most appropriate fraud prevention solution for your business. If you are looking for wide consumer adoption of the technology, iris scanning may be a better choice for your company. Likewise, if high accuracy and increased security is important for your business, retina scanning may be the choice for your company.


Mayhew, S. (2019, February 18). Afghanistan begins BIOMETRIC registration of civil service EMPLOYEES: Biometric update. Biometric Update |.

Mohammed Akhef / TNN / Dec 30, 2019. (n.d.). AMBIS to roll out across state from 2020, help in better crime detection: Aurangabad news – times of India. The Times of India.

Alex McGinness
Alex McGinness

Alex is passionate about making the world a better place. She believes she can change the world, and one way she can do that is by helping businesses grow online through digital marketing. She excels at branding, graphic design, web design, social media management, and content writing. Alex finds the most success when she is working with companies that produce services or products that make the world a better place. She enjoys working with a collaborative team that is organized, goal-oriented and harmoniums. At IDMERIT, she manages their digital presence online as their in-house marketing coordinator. Her goal is to showcase the IDMERIT brand as a leader in global identity verification services.

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