Biometric systems and iris recognition in medicine: the contribute of biometry for AB0 incompability and personal data’s protection

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First article in the series by Guest Editor Francesca Romana Baglioni. Contact us to find out more about our Guest Editor programme.

The background

The current world population, which has more than 7 billion of people today, is heterogeneous, dynamic and evolving constantly. States, cities, regions and societies provide a large number of services, material or intangible that people can enjoy. There are rules, laws and self-regulations to allow everyone to access in places, activities, informations. If no one is controlled, the state will be in chaos, for this reason “ to identify” a citizen becomes a good practise to diversify it from another.

The fusion of globalisation, the international uncertainty, the complexity of the society and a large variety of services, creates a greater sense of responsability in the State which wants to check on his citizens in order to avoid security issues. The identification is used for different situations: to controll places, flows of people, digital activities, human actions. The effective and fast method to identify a person is through the biometric recognition, the technique that is use to take certain parts or attributes of the body such as face, iris, fingerprints. The current digital society is based on datas, algorithms and technological devices able to know identities.

Biometric systems

In the Era of technological and digital innovation, biometry is considered a valid and necessary science. Specifically, biometry is a scientific discipline that analyzes human biophysical quantities to determine their mechanisms and values. The biometric system is a particular type of informatic system that aims to identify an individual on the basis of physical, biological and behavioral characteristics.

The process is divided into two phases:

  • Identification phase: after taking the biometric data of the individual, it’s compared with all the templates in the database and the output will be the identity associated with the user, if there
  • Verification phase: the biometric data of the user is compared with his previously acquired template and therefore the identity correspondence is evaluated.

Iris recognition

There are several biometric recognition systems and one of the most accurate is the iris recognition. Iris is an extremely delicate part of the human body. To choose the biometric system which is valid for a certain situation, advantages, disadvantages and properties including security and accuracy, are analyzed. Although iris recognition has a high degree of accuracy, it has a low degree of acceptability because the user fears some damages to the visual organs. In any case, the iris identification is considered necessary for many delicate operations.

The phases of the iris recognition process are four:

  • Acquisition/Capture: the user is in front of the device to take the image of the iris.
  • Segmentation: the circular region of the iris is isolated from the rest of the elements of the
  • Normalization: the position of the iris is normalized in the image in case of a bad positio
  • Feature extraction: the system encodes the iris patterns creating a code expressed in bytes.

Biometric system for blood
transfusion process: AB0 incompability

The attention is focused on a particular case study in the health field where biometric recognition, with focus on the iris, gives a great contribution to medicine, as for example in the blood transfusion process. It’s a very complex and delicate operation that requires a high concentration by medical staff. The complexity of the process is caused by the extreme accuracy in associating donor’s data and blood with sick patient’s data and blood to place all the information in the blood bags. In this case, biometric recognition helps the human activity that can make fatal mistakes. With the automatic identification of the patient, fatal errors such as incorrect fill out papers of personal healthcare caused by writing errors, distraction or exchange of blood bags for cases of homonymy, can be avoided. There had already been cases of AB0 incompatibility, or the incompatibility of blood bags: the first case was in Milan where a lady was victim of an exchange of blood bags for hip surgery; the second was in Monza where a lady was victim of an error of homonymy and exchange of blood bags, she died.

Nowadays, medicine can’t make these mistakes and researches affirm that in delicate cases human activity must be accompanied by reliable tools that can avoid any type of errors.

Iris recognition for blood
transfusion process in Murcia

A hospital that has adopted the iris biometric recognition system is the Virgen de la Arrixaca Hospital in Murcia. In 2016, it developed its initiative at Onco Hematological Day hospital and it’s part of the Future Challenge Health program. The company Umanick created the iris biometric identification system, Iritech, for two specific cases: chemotherapeutic and blood transfusion processes. Biometric system is a contribution to medicine in cases where patients are subjected to complex cyclical and repetitive treatments. Iritech has been a real success: patients are identified in a few seconds and all the informations are printed in labels. In this way, there is no need to fill out papers risking to make mistakes.

Personal data’s protection in the
health field

In healthcare, it’s essential to ensure the privacy of patient’s personal data. In the case of donors’ data collection, datas must be preserved in a pre-established time and with care. Health datas must have a special treatment because they contain intimate informations about the psychophysical state of the patient. There must be ethical rules for data management following the guidelines of the Data Protection Authority. Above all, it’s important to show a transparent  and valid privacy policy: who is the owner who collects the data, the purposes and all the exercises that patient can do to protect his privacy. However, the prohibition on the medical data’s treatment is not apply when they are used for purposes of preventive medicine, scientific research or statistics. The Health Policy collect necessary informations to analyze the development of epidemiological diseases in advance and spread necessary care.

Technological evolution is helping many fields, including the medical one that has to observe complex and delicate situations. Informatic tools, devices and high automated performances help human work. In the case of AB0 incompability, biometric recognition is not the “solution to the problem” because medicine will always produce something more innovative, but certainly, it’s a valid alternative to the only human activity that just because “human” can make mistakes. Sure, in the medical field, mistakes must not exist.

Biometric recognition is a type of automated computer system that is part of the wider area of the Artificial Intelligence. This one is an informatic technology that completely has changed the relationship between human being and machine because it makes the machine able to perform delicate and complex actions in autonomy and not to risk any type of human mistakes. The need to automate actions and behaviour arises from the complexity of the daily life. Life is dynamic, evolving, frenetic and artificial intelligence has to work together with the human being who believes in the evolutionary science.

Today, biometric recognition systems are useful in some context that man couldn’t supervised constantly. Just as the data’s flows and people are countless, also all the actions thought for people are countless; the artificial intelligence is considered an essential science.

Service involved

Ethics assessment of technology
We help our clients and partners in the process of critical analysis to examine the effects that the introduction and use of a technology may have on human rights, society, and the environment. This is a complex process that requires a systematic view and consideration of how technology might affect people and society at large in the short and long term. The ethical impact of technology is therefore crucial when developing and deploying new technologies, in order to mitigate the negative effects and maximise the benefits, and to enable developers, organisations and policy makers to make informed decisions. In this assessment, we assist our clients and partners to consider all relevant factors; there are several methodologies and approaches used to assess the ethical impact of technologies, including:
  • Privacy impact analysis: this type of analysis assesses the effects of technology on the privacy of individuals and their personal information. It considers the risks of monitoring and tracking, the consequences of possible data breaches and the security measures needed to protect users' privacy.
  • Social impact assessment: this type of analysis evaluates the effects of technology on society and the economy in general, considering impacts on unemployment, social equality, access to education and health, quality of life and environmental sustainability.
  • Ethical impact assessment: This type of analysis assesses the effects of technology on society's morals and values, considering impacts on social justice, accountability, transparency, human dignity and individual freedom.
  • Life cycle analysis: This type of analysis assesses the environmental impacts of technology throughout its life cycle, from production to use and end of life.
Ethical impact assessment of technologies therefore requires a multidisciplinary evaluation involving technology experts, ethics experts, legal experts, environmental experts and other stakeholders.
Medical device Assessment


We provides advisory support to manufacturers on obtaining a certificate (CE mark) for medical devices. Legal consultants of our team have in-depth knowledge of MDR and experience in this kind of activity within the framework of European projects in the field of health care.
Cooperation includes a pre-assessment and based on its results, the determination of successive steps on the way to obtaining a CE mark. In addition, we can support companies in their relations with notified bodies, which are in most cases authorized to issue certificates.