Samsung has announced a new tablet featuring iris-recognition technology and built specifically for government and enterprise bodies in India.
Costing INR 13,499 ($200), the Android 5.0 Samsung Galaxy Tab Iris sports a 7.0” WSVGA (1024×600) display, 1.2 Ghz Quad Core processor, a 3,600mAh battery, and other average specifications. But the real kicker here is of course the onboard Iris camera, which allows public-facing organizations to authenticate the identity of individuals through their eyes.
But why in India?
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is a government agency set up with the express purpose of collecting biometric and demographic data of the country’s residents and storing it in a central database, with each individual then allocated a 12-digit number, known as a Aadhaar.
The program has been controversial, with some groups calling it unconstitutional as it infringes on people’s privacy. Indeed, similar schemes have been vetoed elsewhere in the world, but in March this year India passed the new Aadhaar bill, a move designed to make the Aadhaar number mandatory for all government subsidies, and ultimately push towards a cashless and paperless society. And this is where Samsung India comes into play with its tablet.
It’s “ready for Aadhar authentication through an integrated and highly secure biometric device,” according to a press release issued today. “The Galaxy Tab Iris will provide cashless and paperless services in various applications such as banking, eGovernance services such as passport, taxation, healthcare and education.”
Samsung hopes the Galaxy Tab Iris will be used for services such as E-PDS (Electronic Public Distribution system), MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural employment Guarantee Act) payments, pension schemes, tax filings, passport renewals, car registrations, and even passenger verification at airports or railway stations.
Samsung’s move into biometric tablets isn’t entirely surprising — in March 2015, SRI International, the original creators of Apple’s famous SIRI virtual assistant, announced an exclusive license of its Iris on the Move (IOM) technologies to Samsung. The first fruits of this deal were supposed to lead to a special customized version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 tablet with a built-in iris-scanner, though it’s not entirely clear whether that device ever made it into the B2B marketplace.
Though the Samsung Galaxy Tab Iris will undoubtedly lead to continued controversy, India hopes it will help banks and government agencies streamline the authentication process, as it negates the need for paperwork, signatures, and other time-consuming procedures. But perhaps more than that, it also helps circumvent literacy and language barriers — India is home to many languages and dialects which can cause problems, particularly for those traveling to other regions.
“We’re excited to offer biometric-based services to the billion plus people enrolled in Aadhar,” said Dr. Aloknath De, corporate vice president and chief technology officer, Samsung India R&D. “Our India R&D team has made significant investments in biometric technology research and we built this product leveraging our knowledge in hardware design, biometrics and security for a high-speed scan, greater accuracy and high reliability.”
Dr. Aloknath De added that it’s also offering an identity software development kit (SDK) to allow developers to build digital services that work with the technology. “This will encourage our startup ecosystem to rapidly build relevant apps and services,” he said. “We strongly believe this overall offering will in turn strengthen government programs.”