SOURCE: The Smart Card Alliance

April 17, 2007 11:19 ET

Rapid Expansion of Smart Cards in Government Evident as Smart Card Alliance Conference Concludes

PRINCETON JUNCTION, NJ -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 17, 2007 -- The Smart Card Alliance government conference speakers from the federal government and industry reported on the significant progress in smart card programs and available technology since they last met in Washington D.C. one year ago.

"The e-passport program is putting millions of smart cards in the hands of U.S. citizens, and Registered Traveler and HSPD-12 identity programs are now up and running and will also be issuing millions of smart cards by this time next year," said Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance.

"The dual strengths of security and privacy protection are propelling the growth of smart card use by government. Two areas of concern for our members, however, are the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and REAL ID programs. We continue to advocate that the Department of Homeland Security abandon its plans to use long read range RFID technology for the WHTI passport card and 2D barcode technology for standardized driver's licenses because these technologies do not provide adequate security and privacy protection," said Vanderhoof.

Below are some highlights from the second and third days of the Smart Card Alliance 6th Annual Smart Cards in Government Conference.

e-passport. "One million e-passports are issued each month and three million have been issued so far," said Anne Barrett, assistant secretary passport services for the Department of State. "We have the capability at all passport issuing centers to issue an e-passport. By early June all passports issued will be e-passports."

Barrett reported that passport demand is 44% higher this year than last, in large part due to WHTI, which, effective January 23rd, required air travel passengers returning from the Caribbean, Mexico or Canada to have passports. Today, 77 million passports are in the hands of U.S. citizens.

HSPD-12 implementation lessons learned. With U.S. federal agencies collectively on the verge of issuing millions of smart card-based identity credentials to all of their employees and contractors, attendees were very attentive as program leaders from the Departments of Treasury, State, Homeland Security and Defense as well as NASA and GSA shared their implementation approaches and lessons learned. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) requires all government agencies and departments to issue a smart card identity credential to all new federal employees and contractors by October 2007 and all existing employees by October 2008.

Registered Traveler. Frequent air travelers who qualify for the new Registered Traveler program will get the valuable benefits of an abbreviated security search and an expedited line at airports, according to Carter Morris, senior vice president, American Association of Airport Executives. More than 30,000 people have already enrolled in the new program and received a smart card, with six participating U.S. airports live and six more implementing now.

"You can go to any airport and get a card and use it at any other airport that supports the program," said Morris. "The enrollment process varies by provider, but generally is fast. No interview is required, and many providers have set up kiosks to capture the biometrics necessary for identity authentication."

The program is a public private partnership between the AAAE's Registered Traveler Interoperability Consortium and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and is fully fee funded. Applicants are required to provide their fingerprints and agree to a background check and security threat assessment performed by the TSA. Once approved, they receive a smart card that includes their fingerprint template biometrics for identity authentication. Biometrics are the best way to ensure that the person using the card is the same one to whom it was issued.

Emerging programs. Conference attendees heard briefings from program leaders on the latest developments in two programs that are still in the discussion and requirements definition stage, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) passport card and new driver's licenses and identification cards that would result from the REAL ID Act of 2005.

John Wagner, director of Trusted Traveler Programs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, presented a comprehensive view of the department's many programs for expediting border crossings for the 423 million incoming international passengers every year, and their experience using RFID, biometrics and other technologies. Darryl Williams, program director, REAL ID for DHS, also spoke at the event, but was unable to comment on the minimum standards for driver's licenses that are driven by the REAL ID Act, because the public comment period remains open until May 8th.

Advances in biometrics, chip security and cryptography. The technology tracks featured industry panels that addressed the new developments in card management systems, biometrics usage over the contactless chip interface, stronger cryptography standards and the evolving standards for physical security systems to meet the HSPD-12 access security standards. Industry suppliers are making rapid advancements in smart cards and systems to meet new government identity standards, and many of those advances were evident in the technology track presentations and in the accompanying exhibit hall. "The smart card industry is poised for rapid growth over the next two years to meet the aggressive demands for interoperable, standards-based solutions from the public sector," concluded Vanderhoof.

About the Smart Card Alliance

The Smart Card Alliance is a not-for-profit, multi-industry association working to stimulate the understanding, adoption, use and widespread application of smart card technology.

Through specific projects such as education programs, market research, advocacy, industry relations and open forums, the Alliance keeps its members connected to industry leaders and innovative thought. The Alliance is the single industry voice for smart cards, leading industry discussion on the impact and value of smart cards in the U.S. and Latin America. For more information, please visit http://www.smartcardalliance.org.

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