At Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, you just give them the look when you enter a dining hall and your identity is automatically confirmed. The “look” is an eye scan you get as you peer into camera unit located just inside the door. It quickly compares your unique iris pattern with what it has on file and validates the match. You don’t even need to remove your glasses.

A positive ID triggers a door controller that unlocks a turnstile to admit you. It all takes less than a second in most cases.

The technology is used at Georgia Southern’s two main dining halls to validate meal plan holders. Identity confirmation is critical because the school just went to an unlimited access meal plan.
“I was looking for a way to be more accurate than with a card,” says Richard Wynn, director of the school’s Eagle Card program. “Cards and PINs can be shared and photos are less effective than you might think because of the way students are always changing their looks.”

Palm scanners were dismissed because of hygiene concerns.

Already in use in high-security environments like airports and the military in the Middle East, iris scanning technology uses pictures of each person’s unique eye pattern (250 data points, ten times as many as for a standard fingerprint) to validate identity. Errors are literally one in millions.

The dining halls retain a cashier for cash customers and meal plan holders opting out of the eye scanning, but most students prefer the eye scan system because of its convenience—“They can go in and out as often as they want with no access interaction and can just move right through even if they have a cell phone in one hand and a book bag in the other,” Wynn says.

Eye pictures started to be collected last May during orientation and the system went live in August. The department purchased 10 units at a total investment of $35,000.

Georgia Southern has an enrollment of around 20,000 with some 5,000 on-campus residents.