Hiccup technology delays India’s switch from fingerprint scanners to iris scanners for food subsidies

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India has been forced to delay the rollout of iris scanners in fair-price stores across the country. The stores are managed by the Food and Civilian Supplies Department (DFCS) as part of the Public Distribution System (PDS) and are set up to give impoverished citizens access to food and other essential products.

In the past, the PDS has relied on fingerprint recognition to verify the identity of beneficiaries. However, this program was suspended in response to COVID-19, as the use of a shared point of contact increased the risk of spread. The DFCS later announced it would switch to a contactless iris recognition system, saying the new scanners would be in place by April 2021.

Unfortunately, the agency put those plans on hold after learning that its current point of sale (POS) machines are not compatible with iris scanners. The agency has decided to resume the use of fingerprint biometrics due to the lack of other options and is again using fingerprint scanners in 18 states.

According to Abid Hussain, director of food and civilian supply, biometric authentication is necessary to ensure that every citizen receives their fair share of available resources and to prevent leaks within the system. It also supports the deployment of the wider Aadhaar program. The agency had hoped the iris scanners would reduce the number of complaints, with Hussain noting that the current fingerprint system has an error rate of between five and seven percent. Iris scanners, on the other hand, have an expected error rate of less than one percent.

The DFCS is locked in its contract with its current point-of-sale provider until April 2022. The agency is currently considering a request for proposals to ensure that its next batch of machines will offer support for iris recognition. . The Indian government has previously used fingerprint and iris recognition to remotely register retirees during the pandemic.

Source: La Tribune

January 13, 2021 – by Eric Weiss


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