Princeton Identity looks to make 'Minority Report' tech a reality

Sept. 25, 2018
Company receives trio of new patents including one for targeting marketing data based on iris identification

The rapid evolution of computer hardware and software over the last two decades combined with the proliferation of devices that were once the purview of science fiction has resulted in many a comparison being made between today’s security technology and that of films and books of the past. Of these comparisons, none is more prevalent than that of the systems depicted in the popular 2002 sci-fi action film "Minority Report" in which Tom Cruise plays the role of a police captain in a world where violent crime has been nearly eliminated.

And though society isn’t yet using a team of mutated humans capable of receiving visions of future incidents to enhance crime prevention, many of the technologies portrayed in the film, such as touchscreen interfaces, autonomous cars, gesture recognition, and artificial intelligence are now a reality. Interestingly enough, one of the most memorable capabilities depicted in the movie allowed retailers to specifically target their marketing efforts to Cruise’s character using iris scanning technology. That could also soon be a reality.

Princeton Identity, which specializes in the development of biometric identification solutions, was recently awarded a trio of patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, one of which dealt with this very type of capability. Specifically, the new patents include:

  • Patent 10042994 for Validation of the Right to Access an Object.
  • Patent 10025982 for Collecting and Targeting Marketing Data and Information Based upon Iris Identification.
  • Patent 10038691 for Authorization of a Financial Transaction.

Mark Clifton, the company’s CEO, says when Princeton Identity, formerly known as SRI Sarnoff, first developed their iris recognition technology, they never dreamed that it could be used for the number of applications that it is today and that these patents were more theoretical in nature when they initially applied for them.

“People use just about anything you do online to target marketing towards you, so this is really another example of how this technology can be used,” Clifton says. “I don’t have anyone knocking on the door for that application but we thought when we were going through this brainstorming exercise of all of these applications that was one we thought might be worthwhile, so we went ahead and patented that as well.”

According to Clifton, when their technology was first developed, these systems were so large that they filled half a classroom, leveraged six different cameras and cost a quarter of million dollars to purchase. Now, however, the technology required to run such a complex task now rests in smartphones.

“We never thought about how to apply this technology in general public applications or imagined that we could get it down to fit to the size of a phone or the side of a door or point-of-sale terminal,” Clifton says. “What we said was, ‘No one has ever thought of that before,’ so we sought out these three patents based on that thinking that we basically wanted to take advantage of the small form factor, price and performance and the apply that in different marketplaces.”

Although the patent for targeting marketing data may garner the most raised eyebrows, Clifton believes the most important of the three is the one they were awarded for authorizing financial transactions which he expects will “win out” in the biometric wars.

“It has direct correlation to security as well as making sure the right person is accessing the account or authorizing the transaction,” Clifton adds. “As we see in places like India where they have enrolled 1.2 billion people in a national ID program, they are adding payment modules on top of that now, so they’re using biometric authentication and they’re adding payments which require positive identity verification. There are also places like the Philippines where a large portion of the population is unbanked and all they have is a phone, so they are able to transfer money back and forth and be assured the person receiving or enacting the transaction is the right person."

Aside from banking and financial institutions, Clifton says the new patents should also open up several new markets for the company, including the travel sector where biometrics is expected to make the identity verification process more seamless.

“You will start to see this trend where credentials are used less and less and so you need a better way to authenticate people and the better way is one that is secure, accurate and is yet convenient,” he says.

About the Author:

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of and a veteran security journalist. You can reach him at [email protected].

About the Author

Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief,

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.