Biometric security techniques, such as face or iris recognition, are not particularly new, but have tended to be limited to official business or novelty products until now. That seems sure to change with the commercial debut this month of a mobile phone lock from Oki Japan that is opened simply by looking at it.

The Iris Authentication Middleware (Japanese link) is now available to networks and phone manufacturers that wish to add a layer of security to existing alphanumeric passkeys. As it can be added to existing phones running either Symbian or Windows Mobile, chances are good that it will soon be rolled out in the hyper-competitive Japanese phone market by a network looking for a marketing edge.

Open sesame

As long as a phone has a camera of at least 1 megapixel, the application can be used to lock the handset and then open it using the camera to scan one of the user's irises. According to the press release, false positives occur in no more than one in 100,000 scans.

Naturally, whichever eye is to be used as the key has to be pre-registered with the software; a process Oki claims takes a matter of seconds. After that, the only way a potential data thief is going to get his hands on the phone's contents is too gruesome to even think about.