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The Next Old Thing

Illustration Spur Design

Getty Images (Fleming)

Getty Images (Fleming)

The Technology: Spy Security
The Product: Myris Iris Scanner
The Forebear: Ian Fleming

Q Branch is one of the more fantastical parts of the James Bond universe—a covert department that outfits spies with things like garroting-wire watches and shoes with knives in them. Yet the Q character was based on a real person, the military gadgeteer Charles Fraser-Smith, with whom Bond creator Ian Fleming worked during World War II.

Even today, Fraser-Smith’s creations—hairbrushes that hide saws, camera cigarette lighters, map-concealing pencils—would make it into anyone’s secret super-spy kit, but so too would the Myris, a handheld iris scanner recently unveiled by the U.S. company EyeLock.  

About the size of a computer mouse, the Myris uses a video camera to take 20 pictures a second of more than 240 points on the human eye. From this, the device creates a code that can be substituted for a password for computers, email, bank accounts, even social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. And while the stakes might not be as high as, say, foiling the evil plans of Hugo Drax, the Myris—which promises “one-in-2-trillion security”—employs a range of failsafes that would have made Q proud.

“The system uses a chain of provenance—a series of events that have to happen sequentially—in order for it to operate,” says Anthony Antolino, chief marketing and business development officer for EyeLock. He goes on to imply that the age-old baddie ploy—standing before a scanner with a freshly plucked eyeball—will not work with the Myris. “You have to be physically present—meaning you have to be alive—in order for the sequence to start.”

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