Smart cards keep getting smarter

Government-issued identity documents around the world are taking a giant leap into the 21st century, and HID Global is leading the way.

If you’re a resident of a developing country, one of your biggest challenges can sometimes be just proving that you are who you say you are. Government-issued forms of identification can be counterfeited, stolen and sold on the streets.

HID Global has taken big strides in the past two years to help governments around the world provide their citizens with secure documentation which they can use when they apply for jobs, open bank accounts, travel abroad or receive government services.

“Smart cards are being used everywhere in a whole range of areas, from ‘green cards’ in the United States to micropayment systems in India,” says Selva Selvaratnam, chief technology officer for HID Global.

The acquisition of two leaders in the ID business, LaserCard at the start of 2011 and ActivIdentity in 2010, has firmly established HID’s presence in the field – and not just in the developing world.

“Pretend you’re a government in Angola or the US or any other place in the world,” says Monica Nascimento, marketing director for HID Global’s Government ID Solutions business. “You’ve been tasked with putting together some sort of secure ID program – a driver’s license, a passport, a foreign resident card. You’ve been mandated to replace these paper-based credentials that have no security in them.”

To meet this challenge you could turn to HID Global, which offers the broadest portfolio of products in the industry, from the production printers that create secure e-documents to the electronic readers that access the information on them.

HID can provide all the security features that go into the cards, including holograms, micro-text optical variable devices and fingerprints.

“Some customers require a complete turnkey solution, while others may already be working with in-country partners and only require certain components or subsystems. In those cases, HID is prepared to supply the missing pieces, Monica Nascimento says.

HID Global’s LaserCard brand has been supplying Permanent Resident Cards to the US government for the past 13 years. This “green card” attests that someone who is not a US citizen is allowed to live and work in the country.

More than 30 million highly secure green cards have been issued to the US government, and LaserCard won a multiple-year renewal of the contract last May.

The US green cards have never been successfully counterfeited, Monica Nascimento says. The technology that personalizes those records “burns” biometric data, such as fingerprints and photographs, into the optical memory stripe located on the back of the card. “Any attempts at modifying or altering the data in any fashion can be easily detected by the reader,” she says.

That tamper-proof technology has helped HID Global win contracts for government identity programs around the world. The company is involved in 27 e-passport ini tiatives and 49 national ID programs. It supplies foreign residency cards in Costa Rica, national ID cards in Saudi Arabia, health cards in Dubai, and driver’s licenses in Ivory Coast and Mexico, and vehicle registration cards in India, to name a few.

You’re probably accustomed to carrying several forms of identification in your wallet, but Selva Selvaratnam sees these coming together into one all-encompassing document in the future. “If you are carrying a passport, a national ID card and a driving license, there will come a time when these need to converge,” he says. But you don’t need to rush out and apply for a super-ID just yet. Selva Selvaratnam thinks this convergence is at least 10 or 15 years away.