How the Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL’s Iris Scanner Works

Windows 10 launched approximately three months ago, and it would only be fitting for smartphones running Windows Phone 10 – the mobile counterpart of the former – to be released soon after. On October 6, Microsoft unveiled a wide array of devices operating on the mobile version of the Windows 10 OS to the world. Among these smartphones were the Nokia Lumia 950 and 950 XL.

The Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL, with specifications such as 3 gigabytes of RAM, large batteries, large Quad HD screens and impressive primary and secondary cameras, are truly monsters among beasts. However, it is not the specifications of these two devices that set them apart from ALL of the Smartphones in the market right now – it is the fact that they are two of the very first Smartphones to come with iris scanning technology. Yes, both the Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL are capable of scanning the human iris and allow users to secure their phones with an iris scan.

Before the functioning of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL’s iris scanning technology can be explained, the medium that the technology uses requires description. Situated on the front of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, along with a front-facing camera, is an infrared camera specifically designed to enable the phones to capture superior images of the human iris under low-light conditions. Additionally, there is another camera designed specifically to capture images of your eyes. This hardware, in conjunction with a technology known as “asymmetric key cryptography” — most commonly used in smart cards — collaborates with a Windows feature known as Windows Hello. The latter, initially available on the PC version of Windows 10, permits users to gain access to their phones via iris scanning, eliminating the need to enter a password or a PIN.

To establish an iris scan as your phone lock, the Windows Phone 10 OS will first prompt you to set up a PIN lock as a fallback option for instances when the iris scan fails. Next, familiarize your phone with your iris to complete the screen lock setup.

After the screen lock has been set up, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL initiate an iris scan whenever an attempt is made to unlock them. First, these devices use their infrared cameras to illuminate the user’s eyes. Subsequently, the camera, specifically embedded for capturing images of users’ eyes, takes a picture of the user’s eyes. A mathematical calculation then transforms your biometric information into a hash, which the device subsequently checks to see if it matches the hash saved from when you initially set up the lock. If the two hashes are the same, you will be granted access to the phone, otherwise, access will be denied. Overall, this entire process takes merely two seconds to execute and complete.

Part of the technology used to create the Lumia 950 and 950 XL’s iris scanner is inspired by Microsoft’s Kinect sensor, which accompanies the infamous Xbox gaming console. Microsoft has made privacy its top priority with Windows Hello and its new iris scanning technology; this is why Windows Hello does not store any captured images of your face or iris locally or anywhere on the internet. Furthermore, Microsoft’s iris scanning technology boasts superiority over the “Face unlock” technology, which can be easily defeated using a picture of the user and was introduced not too long ago. A person absolutely cannot gain access to a Windows Phone through Microsoft Hello if they are using a picture of the user to try and bypass the iris scan. To top it all off, Microsoft Hello and Microsoft’s new iris scanning technology can even successfully scan your iris while you are wearing normal (transparent) glasses.

Lastly, Microsoft did not significantly hype its new iris scanning technology. This could mean that Microsoft is merely testing the waters for its latest breakthrough in smartphone security at this moment. If the populace grows fond of Microsoft’s iris scanning technology, it is certainly possible that we will soon see this new technology integrated into many more smartphones.


Kevin Arrows

Kevin Arrows is a highly experienced and knowledgeable technology specialist with over a decade of industry experience. He holds a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification and has a deep passion for staying up-to-date on the latest tech developments. Kevin has written extensively on a wide range of tech-related topics, showcasing his expertise and knowledge in areas such as software development, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. His contributions to the tech field have been widely recognized and respected by his peers, and he is highly regarded for his ability to explain complex technical concepts in a clear and concise manner.