August 18, 2010
from FastCompany Website
We've all seen and obsessively referenced Minority Report, Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's dystopian future, where the public is tracked everywhere they go, from shopping malls to work to mass transit to the privacy of their own homes.
The technology is here. I've seen it myself.
It's seen me, too, and scanned my irises.
In a partnership with Leon - one of the largest cities in Mexico, with a population of more than a million - GRI will fill the city with eye-scanners.
That will help law enforcement revolutionize the way we live - not to mention marketers.
Before coming to GRI, Carter headed a think tank partnership between Bank of America, Harvard, and MIT.
Leon is the first step.
To implement the system,
the city is creating a database of irises. Criminals will automatically be
enrolled, their irises scanned once convicted. Law-abiding citizens will
have the option to opt-in.
Police officers will monitor these scans and track the movements of watch-listed individuals.
GRI's scanning devices are currently shipping to the city, where integration will begin with law enforcement facilities, security check-points, police stations, and detention areas.
This first phase will cost less than $5 million.
Phase II, which will roll out in the next three
years, will focus more on commercial enterprises. Scanners will be placed in
mass transit, medical centers and banks, among other public and private
I tested these devices at GRI's R&D facilities in New York City last week. It took less than a second for my irises to be scanned and registered in the company's database.
Every time I went through the scanners after that - even when running through (because everybody runs, right, Tom Cruise?) my eyes were scanned and identified correctly.
(You can see me getting scanned on the Hbox in the video below. "Welcome Austin," the robotic voice chimes.)
For such a Big Brother-esque system, why would any law-abiding resident ever volunteer to scan their irises into a public database, and sacrifice their privacy?
GRI hopes that the immediate value the system creates will alleviate any concern.
And he has a warning for those thinking of opting out:
This vision of the future eerily matches Minority Report, and GRI knows it.
When I asked Carter whether he felt the film was intended as a dystopian view of the future of privacy, he pointed out that much of our private life is already tracked by telecoms and banks, not to mention Facebook.
One potential benefit? Carter believes the system could be used to intermittently scan truck drivers on highways to make sure they haven't been on the road for too long.
GRI also predicts that iris scanners will help marketers.
"Digital signage," for example, could enable advertisers to track behavior and emotion.
So will we live the future under iris scanners
and constant Big Brother monitoring? According to Carter, eye scanners will
soon be so cost-effective - between $50-$100 each - that in the
not-too-distant future we'll have "billions and billions of sensors" across