India’s Aadhaar ID program to improve biometric security with new BioNetra iris partnership

India’s national biometric ID system — the largest program in the world with 1.1 billion registered users — has inked an deal to implement BioNetra, a new advanced iris authentication solution, allowing users to more easily identify themselves for banking, healthcare and more, while smartphone makers will also be able to build standards-compliant hardware into future devices.

The Indian government has aligned with FotoNation Limited and Safran Identity & Security to bring patented iris capture, recognition and control technology to the nation’s Aadhaar identification program. The joint solution, dubbed BioNetra, promises to both accurately and reliably identify users under “a broad range of lighting and environmental conditions.”

Once in place, BioNetra will enable India’s billion-plus registered users to carry out online operations with “strong authentication” via iris scanning.

The partnership will also provide OEM device makers a platform to produce competitive smartphones with specific hardware requirements meeting the Indian government’s biometric quality and security standards. That would expand availability Aadhaar by allowing verification on personal portable electronics.

BioNetra will be paired with reference design kit that includes hardware specifications, as well as software and design implementation guidelines. The program has been certified by the Indian government’s Standardization Testing and Quality Certification Directorate, under its Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology.

A timetable for wide availability of BioNetra through Aadhaar was not provided, but Safran Identity & Security and FotoNation said they plan to make their patented solution available to new markets “in the coming months.”

Aadhaar adoption in India has been wide reaching, encompassing a number of sectors including attendance tracking at schools and among government employees.

Featuring fingerprint and iris identification, India’s Aadhaar system is a unique 12-digit identity number assigned to each resident, allowing secure acces sto services or to verify their presence.

To push the system, India’s government has gone as far as to require colleges to track biometric attendance, or else lose their federal funding. Biometric attendance is also used in the nation’s hospitals. But the program has faced push back from rural priests, who argue that the system lacks flexibility for long and inconsistent hours.

Iris scans are increasingly becoming a key component of national identification methods. To start 2017, Singapore began collecting citizen iris scans for identity cards and related purposes.