Maybe you have the kind of eyes that give you away. Now, though, your eyes — specifically, the blood vessels in the whites of your eyes — might keep all your secrets.
"Each section of the white of your eye is the equivalent of a fingerprint," says Toby Rush, EyeVerify CEO and founder. "It's like four fingerprints staring at you."
EyeVerify's authentication system, Rush adds, is easy compared with retina- and iris-scanning identification systems, which require special lighting. EyeVerify works with a cellphone camera.
"All you have to do is hold it roughly in front of your eye, look right, look left, turn it around and it'll be done," he says. "It's that simple."
Reza Derakhshani, an associate professor at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, and Arun Ross, an associate professor at West Virginia University, first developed eye-vein verification in 2005. They received a patent in February 2008. After Rush came across the concept in September 2011, he negotiated a worldwide license for the technology and started EyeVerify the following January.
Rush, who had spent the previous 13 years working in the mobile and wireless fields, raised $1.4 million in seed money from Think Big Ventures and a number of angel investment groups. A team of 12 people — five full-time employees, including Derakhshani, who is EyeVerify's chief scientist as well as director of UMKC's Computational Intelligence and Bio-Identification Technologies Lab — is working to make the application accurate and easy to use.
If they succeed, Rush expects numerous industries to start relying on the company's eye-vein biometrics for such everyday needs as money transfers, prescription records and building access. From deactivating your burglar alarm to activating your gun or weapon to accessing your medical history, there's no shortage of uses for a portable technology that lets you prove you are who you say you are.
"It is quintessentially who you are," Rush says, talking up the benefits of biodentity software over the usual typed passwords. "Everything else is a proxy. Because you have a password, we assume you are who you are. Because you know this string of numbers, we're going to assume that you are who you say you are. None of them actually answer the question. But we are definitely answering the question. ... We've got to make it dead simple and accurate every time. That's really the focus."
Besides countering identity theft, Rush says EyeVerify is also part of the Web's evolution, moving a computer user away from anonymity toward verifiability. "I want to be known as a real person online," he says, "and know that I'm dealing with who I want to deal with online."
A pilot program began this fall, ahead of a planned EyeVerify launch next spring. Rush says five companies are testing the application. He won't name them, but he says they are "the biggest names in town in banking and health care."
"We're going to protect your ID," Rush says. "We're going to make it convenient to share your identity with your phone and then the various applications."
EyeVerify is targeting a number of consumer and commercial industries besides banking and health care: government, travel, higher education, hospitality and gaming. But what Rush wants most is for the eyes to have it on Election Day. He believes his product could greatly increase voter participation.
"It's still my favorite application idea for the technology," he says. So when voters choose the next U.S. president, the phrase "voter ID" may have an altogether new meaning.