On Wednesday, a $3 million research contract by the Department of the Defense with a California-based company was announced that will ultimately to leverage technology that could turn ordinary smartphones into biometric scanners.

The company AOptix announced in a press release that the DoD would use its Smart Mobile Identity platform, tailored to the requirements needed of the agency for identity verification purposes in the field.

Department of Defense and AOptix Work to Build Biometric Scanner Attachment for Smartphones

AOptix’s system would work with a traditional smartphone through an attachment that slips over it. (Photo: AOptix)

Wired’s Danger Room was alerted to more ins and outs of the DoD’s potential uses for the technology. The eye-scanning, finger-print taking and voice recognition-type features would not be embedded in the phone but, as Wired put it, “it’s a peripheral that wraps around the phone.”

This addition is reported to weigh less than a pound with the phone, won’t interfere with typical phone functions and is operational with one hand, which Wired pointed out is an improvement upon the current Handheld Interagency Identity Detection System (HIIDE). HIIDE has been used to collect biometric information on 10 percent of the Iraqi population, and, although troops are continuing to pull out of the Middle East, we can only assume such data will continue to be collected.

Department of Defense and AOptix Work to Build Biometric Scanner Attachment for Smartphones

The smartphone system that being developed by AOptix could replace HIIDE, the bulkier system (pictured here) currently in use collecting biometric data in the field. (Photo: Business Wire)

Here’s more from Wired about the improvements this system could have over HIIDE:

Smart Mobile Identity has limited ability to record biometric data at a distance, but its specs outperform the HIIDE camera. It scans faces at up to two meters away, irises from one meter, and voice from within the typical distance from a phone. Thumbprints will still require a finger against the reinforced glass face of the phone. Joey Pritikin, another AOptix executive, says that an additional advantage of the system is its ability to capture an iris in bright sunlight, which is a challenge for HIIDE and other biometrics device. Apparently the system will also be able to snap an image of someone’s face or eye once the phone running the software focuses on it, without a specific click, swipe or press.

Department of Defense and AOptix Work to Build Biometric Scanner Attachment for Smartphones

United States Army Sgt. Sean Henry, of Belleview, Wash., records finger prints of village resident Abdul Manan with a HIIDE camera system while on patrol Thursday, May 6, 2010, in Afghanistan. (Photo: AP/Julie Jacobson)

The Wired stated that the contract involves two years of research, at the end of which the DoD will receive the hardware and software.

“Users of these systems in-field will benefit from a more compact, lightweight, versatile and accurate identity verification device than has previously been available,” Dean Senner, chairman and CEO of AOptix, said in a statement. “We are especially pleased to be working with CACI, leveraging its experience deploying sophisticated solutions for government agencies.”

This isn’t the first smartphone-based biometric system we’ve seen either. The FBI was testing out a different fingerprinting device for iPhones last year.

Here’s a look at AOptix’s iris recognition capabilities, which could be used for identification purposes at airport security, to give a sense of the type of technology they have:

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Featured image via Shutterstock.com.

This story has been updated to make a photo caption more clear.