Next gen high tech Iris Scanners : Recognise from 40 feet away

Biometric technology- The latest breakthrough in this field is the scanning of irises from a distance of up to 40 feet (12 meters) away. 
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in the US demonstrated how Biometric technology the latest breakthrough, used iris recognition technology to identify drivers from a random image of their eye captured from their vehicle side mirror. It is now believed that latest breakthrough will be good for security as well as identifying individuals, with use of measuring physiological characteristics that leaves out security tokens or complex passwords. Iris is a flat, colored, ring-shaped membrane behind the cornea of human eye, with an adjustable circular opening, pupil in the center.

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Is it just improvements in camera optics or is it a fundamental improvement in the pattern matching algorithms or is it a price/performance thing. Hi-res imaging at 40 feet is not a big deal. What is the real insight?