The US Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded a $3 million research contract to California-based AOptix to develop “groundbreaking” technology that could one day allow troops in the field to use a smartphone to scan and record facial features and identity people from a distance, AOptix announced Wednesday.

“The DOD saw an early version of the system and was impressed with its capabilities,” Chuck Yort, AOptix’s vice president for identity solutions, told RIA Novosti. “The product will be modified to meet the DOD’s specific needs, but will provide iris, face, voice and fingerprint recognition all in a smartphone-based device.”

These “Smart Mobile Identity” (SMI) devices will allow for biological identity verification in areas where it was previously thought to be impractical, cost prohibitive, or impossible, AOptix representatives said.

The devices are part of a portable class of biometrics-based hardware and software products that allows built-in cameras on smartphones or tablets the ability to do facial recognition or with the help of additional sensors, provide fingerprint and iris recognition.

While exact information surrounding how the US military plans to use the technology is classified, a spokesman with AOptix told RIA Novosti the devices have practical real world uses as well.

“The potential applications of SMI include law enforcement, border security, national and civil ID programs, disaster relief and humanitarian aid, and healthcare,” the spokesman said.

For example, SMI could allow a border agent to quickly identify a person at a security checkpoint. In the event of a disaster, SMI could be used to help limit fraud by ensuring financial aid is disbursed to the people who are in critical need, the company said.

“Currently US troops rely on a single-use device, known as the Handheld Interagency Identity Detection System (HIIDE) to scan, upload and transmit data from someone’s facial, eye or thumb feature into wartime biometrics databases,” according to reporter Spencer Ackerman in an article for Wired’s national security blog Danger Room.

For the past two years, AOptix said it has been developing SMI solutions for commercial use, adding the technology is almost ready for the market. AOptix is teaming up with information technology firm CACI International to create a classified version of the software for the Pentagon.

“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 chief executive of AOptix said in a statement.