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Iris scan technology for horses
This revolutionary identification system may be coming soon to a horse paddock near you



The iris scan image is captured with the special camera, allied with client software (EyeSync) and the EyeD processor (the process is similar to downloading onto iTunes or using an iPod or iPhone). The camera interacts with software to gather the horse metadata and iris information. The enrollment (registration) and verification software assembles horse and client information, along with the picture taken of the left and right eye to compute the algorithm.

Whether taking the image initially or verifying the horse, the camera and computer assembly do the work automatically in a few seconds. When an already iris-scanned horse comes to the veterinary practice, its identification is simply verified and retrieved. The technology allows verification in four to five seconds and pulls the animal's information out of the database in three to five seconds.

The procedure is done essentially by photographing the horse's eye with the special digital camera taken at 12 to 14 inches from the eye. Horses seem to tolerate the procedure well.


Consideration should be given to the age of the horse and constancy of its iris image. As noted previously, a horse's iris shape stabilizes after 10 to 12 months of age. Stewart and colleagues have captured images from foals at 12 to 18 hours old, but up until now, the period from that age to 10 to 12 months old has not been studied. They're currently doing so with a group of 100 3- and 4-month-old Thoroughbred foals. It's thought the iris shape may change from when a horse is days old to 10 to 12 months of age, but researchers don't yet know if that change is significant. Even if there is a marked change, the iris identification done at 3 to 4 months old could be redone at 10 to 12 months to bring the original algorithm up to date.

The 15-digit code is the horse identifier. Although a registration number may be different among the various registries, the 15-digit code will be the same for each horse. The various breed registries currently are being consulted for their interest and acceptance to use the iris scan technology for identification purposes, says Craig Markovitz, senior business analyst at Global Animal Management. Use and acceptance by The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred racing jurisdictions is still in discussion.

Using iris scan technology on Thoroughbreds would be a fairly easy transition for the horse identifier in the racetrack paddock. For example, the iris scan technology would be substituted for lip tattoo visualization. Iris recognition is a rapid process. In terms of software management, on any given day, there would be only about 100 horses to identify (i.e., 10 horses each in 10 races), and the data could be extracted simply, so the paddock identification process would not be adversely impacted. Owners whose horses travel among racing jurisdictions could carry their animals' iris identification with them, which easily could be downloaded into a racetrack's iris scan database.

It appears iris scan identification technology will soon be for horses what retinal scan technology may be for human identification—namely, an innovative move into the future. Someday, using iris scan technology may be just another routine procedure.

Kane is a researcher and consultant in animal nutrition. He is an author and editor on nutrition, physiology and veterinary medicine with a background in horses, pets and livestock. He is based in Seattle.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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