Smart card industry angles for ID

Smart Card Alliance

As the debate over a national personal identification system intensifies in the wake of Sept. 11, the smart card industry is gearing up a campaign to make sure its chip-based technology is the leading contender for such a system.

The Smart Card Alliance, the industry's trade association, released a white paper Jan. 30 that argues for the advantages of smart cards against other technologies that could be candidates for a personal ID card. The alliance will use it to initiate a concerted pitch to policymakers in the public and private sectors.

Alliance members have been encouraged by what they see as the leading role of the federal government in the recent growth of smart card use.

"Once the Common Access Card [CAC] for the Defense Department has been issued, we expect other agencies will begin to pick up on the use of smart cards," said Bob Merkert, director of strategic accounts, and PC and network security for SCM Microsystems.

DOD has committed to issuing the CAC to 4 million military and civilian employees, he said, and distribution could be extended to more than 13 million people when retired personnel, family members and others are taken into account.

The State Department also is implementing a smart ID card for automated access control of its buildings, the Veterans Administration is looking to pilot smart cards for issuing benefits, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is using a smart card-based PKI for remote access of databases by bank auditors.

All of this, along with the adoption of smart cards by financial institutions, credit card companies and other organizations, means "we are seeing the rebirth of the smart card industry, and its expansion past the level of the initial adopter," Merkert said.

With the emphasis on protecting the privacy of the cardholder, the alliance claims that smart cards reveal only as much information as is needed for any particular transaction.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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