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NE Asia JUN 2005 Issue
Industry & Market

Iris Pushes e-Passport to Combat Terrorism

Malaysian smartcard provider Iris Corp Bhd is pushing its smartcard and e-passport security solutions in developing countries as a means to prevent fraud and thwart terrorism.

Tan Say Jim, managing director of Iris, said the company has incorporated security features in its chip-based passport inlays which conceal data and the fingerprints of their holders, and make forgery and multiple issuance impossible.

Iris has also beefed up its smartcard product line with technology that allows fingerprint biometric matching to be executed on the smartcard itself, rather than on an external computer as is done currently.

The company has integrated the Precise BioMatch fingerprint biometric algorithm from Sweden-based Precise Biometrics, AB, into its products, which will now have "match-on-card" capability.

"With the introduction of this technology, our product range is significantly enhanced to meet the increasing demands for high-end electronic national ID card and electronic passport solutions," said Lee Seng Hoong, Iris sales and marketing director.

Iris pioneered the Malaysian electronic passport program in 1998, and was part of the consortium that won and rolled out the Malaysian Government Multi Purpose Card or MyKad project.

The MyKad is touted as the world's first and largest implementation of a national ID smartcard program. By 2005, the government hopes to issue 15 million Malaysia citizens over the age of 12 with the multi-purpose card, which, besides replacing the national ID, also doubles as driving license, immigration and health card, ATM card and e-purse.

The dual interface contact and contactless multi-purpose smartcard has 64K of EEPROM memory and built-in security features such as public-key infrastructure (PKI) and fingerprint biometric data control.

Penetrating Other Markets

Iris has leveraged on its experience in Malaysia to penetrate into other countries. It has been gunning after the 188-member countries of the International Civil Aviation Organization which has called for members to standardize on secure electronic travel documents following the high incidence of cross-border terrorist acts.

In April, Iris secured two contracts worth a total of US$25 million to supply its products for Thailand's electronic passport and national identity card initiatives.

The company said its wholly-owned subsidiary, Iris Technologies (M) Sdn Bhd, had signed a contract with Thailand's PJT Technology Co Ltd to supply chip inlays for use in the Thailand electronic passports.

The firm also inked a deal to supply smartcard readers to Thailand's SSI & Precise Biometrics Joint Venture Co for the delivery of 36,000 smartcard readers this year.

Iris has already secured smartcard and e-passport contracts from a number of countries and regions.
"We foresee more opportunities for Iris because many countries are also considering implementing e-passports," Tan said.

The company has also invested about US$5 million in new machinery in the past 18 months in anticipation of demand.

by Julian Matthews

(June 2005 Issue, Nikkei Electronics Asia)

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