(Bloomberg) -- Back in 1972, engineers working at Osram Licht AG set their sights on developing applications for infrared. The unit of Siemens AG in southeastern Germany went on to develop an expertise in the light, used in night-vision equipment and galaxy-gazing telescopes.

Almost half a century later, Osram is a stand-alone lighting company and infrared is one of its fastest-growing businesses, thanks in part to soaring demand for a component to scan human irises. The biometric identification system is now part of Samsung Electronics Co.’s flagship Galaxy S8 mobile phone, and promoted as a more secure way to unlock devices than fingerprint or facial scanning.

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