EPassport Awards More RFID Contracts

With government officials facing a March deadline for implementing a
prototype electronic passport, the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO)
this week awarded four more contracts for sample RFID computer chips to be
used in the project.

Although the State Department is charged with the electronic passport
initiative, the GPO will actually design and print the biometric documents,
which will contain an active RFID tag containing all the data
found on printed passports, including a digital photo.

GPO officials awarded new contracts to American companies EDS and OTI
America, along with French firms ASK Contactless Technologies and Oberthur
Card Systems. In October, the GPO picked Axalto, Infineon
Technologies, BearingPoint and SuperCom to compete for the contract.

“We are expanding the pool of products to test before making an official
decision on which products to use,” Clarence Jellen, general manager of
Security and Intelligent Documents at the GPO, said in a statement. “The
goal of the State Department and the GPO is to provide Americans with the
best passport in the world. To that end we are actively testing electronic
passports that embrace a wide range of technologies available today in order
to help us meet that objective.”

Lydia Holt, the public relations coordinator for the GPO, said the agency
would have no further comment on the contracts.

According to officials contacted by internetnews.com, all eight
companies will now be competing with the chip supplier for U.S. biometric
passports. The government currently plans to begin requiring all new
passports to be biometric by early 2006. Last year, the United States issued more
than seven million passports.

“We are still in a ‘fly off’ mode. All of our products are going to be
competing against each other,” Gary Glickman, CEO of G&D Cardtech, EDS’
partner in the project, said. “We believe our product is unique and the best
combination of technology.”

Paul Bize, client sales executive with EDS, said, “[Our] technology is
fundamentally a contactless chip embedded in an inlay material. The inlay
material will be adhered to the inside cover of the passport.”

G&D Cardtech has expertise in passports, transportation smartcards and other
high-security documents, according to Glickman. G&D’s smartcards are used in
transportation systems in Washington, Chicago, Minneapolis and Houston.

Ohad Bashan, CEO of OTI America, said his company has been manufacturing
contactless chips and materials for the last 15 years, most notably for the
government of Israel, which uses biometric identification smartcards for
Palestinian workers.

“We have significant experience with authentication and verification,”
Bashan said. “We verify face image, fingerprints and handprints, all stored
on chips.”

Late last year, the ACLU and other privacy advocates
criticized the U.S.
contactless biometric passport push on security grounds, claiming the
combination of unencrypted data and the contactless reading system will make
the passports susceptible to ID theft.

“When you use appropriate security measures, that simply is not an issue,”
Bashan said.

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