GPO expands e-passport pool

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

"We are expanding the pool of products to test before making an official decision on which products to use," said Clarence Jellen, GPO general manager of security and intelligent documents, in an e-mail.

GPO officials awarded ASK Contactless Technologies $103,000 for the test project, EDS $137,000, Oberthur Card Systems $112,000, and OTI America $92,000.

OTI America's 64K chip has encryption that allows card readers to only access certain information. The antennae, connected to the chip, rests inside the passport. "You don't see it," said Ohad Bashan, president and chief executive officer of OTI America. "The passport will look the same. It's providing contactless technology."

Likewise, GPO officials will put EDS' 72K chip in the back flap of the passport, said Paul Bize, client sales executive for EDS. What separates EDS' chip from the others, Bize said, is its fabrication, inlay assembly and chip type. EDS developers integrated the chip with materials from Giesecke and Devrient America. "We're looking forward to this fly-off and to an objective evaluation of our product," Bize said.

In October, GPO officials announced contracts for Axalto, which received two awards worth $108,000; Infineon Technologies, which will get $108,000; a team of BearingPoint and SuperCom, which will receive $83,000; and for SuperCom in a separate deal worth $74,000. Although State Department officials are leading the electronic passport effort, GPO officials design and make the physical passports.

State officials will issue the first e-passports late in the second quarter and deploy the documents at all passport agencies by early 2006.

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