GPO to test e-passport chips

Four teams will provide computer chips for testing electronic passports, Government Printing Office officials said.

GPO officials announced contracts last week for Axalto Inc., which received two awards worth $107,770; Infineon Technologies AG, which will get $108,317; a team of BearingPoint Inc. and SuperCom Inc., which will receive $82,823; and SuperCom., which received a separate deal for $73,787. Although State Department officials are leading the electronic passport effort, GPO officials design and make the physical passports.

GPO officials may evaluate passport covers that contain an integrated circuit and antenna, although National Institute of Standards and Technology officials will do much of the testing. The companies will provide GPO with samples of the passport electronics, readers and software.

One of the four teams will be chosen for production after the testing is finished, GPO officials said.

State officials will start to issue electronic passports to federal workers in December. They expect to begin distributing the new passports to the public starting in early 2005, said Veronica Meter, GPO spokeswoman. Existing passports will be replaced gradually as people obtain new ones, Meter said.

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