Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Smart Card U.S. Passports in 2005

Starting from the end of 2005, all American passports will be equipped with a contact-less chip (IOL 486) that will permit wireless access of data through new radio frequency technology. So reports Intelligence Online, in a brief piece in their November 5, 2004 issue (N. 487).

The passports will permit border personnel to automatically call up the full identity of the holder along with biometric information. Initially, the biometric data will be photographs, but fingerprints and even the iris of the holder's eye are expected to be included eventually. The reliability of fingerprint identification and the large size of existing data bases of fingerprints make the inclusion of fingerprint information the most likely next step.

The market in smart card technology divides into three producers: those making the chips themselves, the integrators who insert the components onto the cards, and the makers of the card readers. While a flood of "low cost" chips from Asia is expected soon, the interesting action is in cornering the market by integrating propietary chips with propietary card readers. The article sees the recent aggressive financial moves of investor Allan Green as an attempt to link Gemplus, the world leader in smart cards, with Ingenico, the world leader in secure transaction and payment systems.

According to the Associated Press ("E-passports rile privacy advocates in the US), the State Department is testing a prototype of the electronic passport, and will require that foreign visitors to the U.S. have the electronic passports by October 2005. Unsurprisingly, these moves have raised some hackles with advocates of privacy and civil liberties.

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|| headland, 9:33 AM


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