The results of Europe's largest chip reader research project are in, and things look good for the future of electronic identification (ID) documents in the EU. An outcome of the BIOP@SS project, the results lay the technical foundations for such documents, helping the region move towards electronic communication and away from paper correspondence that burdens both the environment and our pockets. Current data show that there are 380 million ID cards in circulation in 27 EU Member States. BIOP@SS is supported by the EUREKA network that promotes advanced cooperative research and development in microelectronics; around EUR 6 million of the funding is covered by the EUREKA clusters CATRENE/MEDEA+.
The BIOP@ASS team says the technologies developed as part of the project will also cut administrative expenses, boost the level of security of future electronic ID cards and passports, speed up data transfer between ID document and reader device, and make it easier for users to use electronic services. The electronic ID cards are based on the European Citizenship Card (ECC) family of standards, and the next generation of electronic passports and residence permits. The ECC, in particular, combines the benefits of standardisation with the added flexibility of being able to adopt national requirements.
The objectives of the BIOP@ASS project were the development of advanced (microelectronics and embedded software) secure and interoperable smart card platforms for required e-administrative applications requested at the European level: e-identity, e-health, and residence permits. The project was grounded on the results of the former MEDEA+ project called ONOM@TOPIC+; it provided a full technical platform and framework enabling European governments to issue interoperable documents or electronic identification or authentication and access to e-services.
The Germany-based BIOP@SS partners Giesecke & Devrient GmbH, Infineon Technologies AG and NXP Semiconductors Germany GmbH, along with another eight companies from six EU Member States, investigated how to best develop high-security chip card technologies for the project.
Under the research plan, the project partners developed a card operating system and security software for the personal computers that users (public authorities and the general public) need to surf the Internet. Developing the system and software helped further bolster the security chips and their encryption technologies.
According to the partners, they discovered how to increase the data transfer rate between electronic ID documents and readers: the rate jumped to 6.8 megabits (Mbit) per second from 848 kilobits (kbit) per second. They add that the rate could theoretically increase to a maximum of 12 Mbit/second.
Thanks to the chip card operating system that was developed by Giesecke & Devrient, the future use of electronic ID documents on the Internet is becoming a reality. An added advantage is that no extra software components need to be installed on the PC.
Countries planning to introduce the electronic ID cards in the near future include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Switzerland. The cards, which can be equipped with the technologies developed by the BIOP@SS team, will comply with international standards.
Other key partners in BIOP@ASS are Gemalto (the Netherlands); Compuworx (Hungary); STMicroelectronics (Switzerland); the France-based organisation Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA); id3semiconductors (France); Precise Biometrics (Sweden); Esterel Technologies (France); and OKSystem (the Czech Republic).