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Biometric Smart Iris Miniature Camera for Defense and Security

Two surveillance applications based on the high-resolution and light-weight Panoptes platform technology are under development by researchers for security and military purposes. The high-resolution, lightweight, and compact camera Panoptes stands for ‘Processing Arrays of Nyquist-limited Observations to Produce a Thin Electro-optic Sensor.’

SMU Sub Imagers

The technology was developed through a project headed by the Dallas-based Southern Methodist University’s Marc Christensen. The development of the initial two extension applications of the technology are funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) with a grant valued at $1.6 million. This iris recognition and the miniature cave camera application will help airport security, border patrol, and military authorities.

The Panoptes technology, initially designed for combat helmet cameras and military aerial drones for utilizing during daylight situations, generates clear and sharp images. It does not have the large weight and size of a traditional camera system since it is not dependant on heavy, big lens to create images of high-resolution.

Arrays of accurately controlled and agile microelectromechanical system (MEMS) based mirrors are combined with low-resolution sub imagers in a silicon base to sample a broad field of view. The sub-imagers made of Plexiglas are redirected adaptively for zooming on to areas of interest with the help of analog steerable MEMS mirrors. An onboard computer stores the high-resolution images captured.

Sixty-one mirrors are incorporated in the micro mirror array that is shaped like a honeycomb. Three actuators are positioned on every mirror to move and control the mirror mechanically. The light passes through the 3.9 mm diameter usable circular aperture. According to the researchers, a digital restored image is the final result, which approaches the optical limit, and is not the super-resolution type.

The Panoptes architecture is able to adjust its field of view for steering on to an area of interest and capture images of value only, according to Christensen. The iris recognition technology is integrated with Panatoptes’ adaptive resolution for developing the biometric-based Smart-Iris. Smart-Iris has the ability to change over to a narrow field of view from a broad field of view.

The camera that uses the Panoptes architecture can be used initially at low resolution for a broad field of view, locate a face and then switch over to a narrow interest region with the iris. The range of this iris acquisition will be increased by the Smart-Iris simultaneously. Smart-Iris can enable persons to pass a standard-sized doorway one by one and scanning each image individually in the process by utilizing equipment that are mounted on door frames or walls, rather than a person standing with his eye kept pressed to a scanner and each person having his iris scanned. In addition, this camera will be able to operate at a high resolution offering across the in excess of 150 pixels. This system is utilized by hotels, laboratories, airports, fitness clubs, and various institutions world-over.

The Department of Homeland Security could benefit from the accurate, unobtrusive Smart-Iris scan. According to Homeland Security the number of persons who have to pass through the security system when they travel on commercial airlines every year exceeds 600 million. This agency depends on the state-of-the-art technology for monitoring around 7,000 baggage screening locations and checkpoints that number more than 700.

Pico, a pocket projector technology that is available now off-the-shelf, is under integration with Panoptes for developing the AIM-CAMS. The candy-sized Pico projectors enable digital photos shot by mobile phones or portable gadgets to be projected on to the walls for viewing in large format. A low-resolution camera when combined with Panoptes and Pico can enable users to take photos in dark locations like urban alleys and caves. This will offer situational awareness to troops, according to Christensen, assistant professor and chair at the Department of Electrical Engineering at the SMU.


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