Paper Passports About To Fade Away

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In a post-911 society, identification documents will move away from paper and toward utilizing digital media.

With national security a high-priority issue, allowing people to travel with forgeable paper documents will become a thing of the past. Embedded media that can hold multiple photo angles, fingerprints, retinal scans, and anything else the government deems necessary will become part of the typical passport.

According to the International Herald Tribune, the next step will be to sift through the various smart card manufacturers, big and small, to find one that can provide a suitable media and readers for it.

Two types of readers for embedded microchips exist. One type, used for toll collecting on some highways, would be a contactless chip. By passing the microchip near a reader, the reader can collect the information.

One obvious problem could be the potential for remote theft, or skimming, of contactless data. Encryption would have to be part of the security for a contactless solution.

The other type of smart card would be swiped through a reader, like a typical credit card. That removes the risk of skimming, but a bit of wear on the wrong place on a strip could render a swiped passport useless and highly inconvenient.

A contactless passport could be lined with something metal that would protect the chip and foil skimming attempts. Another possibility could be the use of RFID chips, a simpler device than a smart card. But data security would be an issue with RFID, and the potential for skimming still exists.

Whatever solution wins out, it will have to happen soon to suit US policies. Currently, citizens of 30 countries may enter the US without a visa. That situation ends in October, and those citizens will have to use some type of electronically-augmented passport to enter the country.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

Paper Passports About To Fade Away
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