August 21, 2006 – Infineon Technologies AG said it has received a multimillion-piece purchase order from the US government to supply RF ICs for the US’ new electronic passport. The chips will be included in the back cover of the new passports to store the same information printed on the actual document.
After issuing the electronic passports to diplomats and other government workers last year, the US is now expanding the program to include tourist passports used by private citizens, and by year’s end all new US passports are expected to be issued as electronic passports. The US government estimates that up to 15 million new passports will be issued in the first full year of the electronic passport rollout, representing the single biggest electronic passport project worldwide to date.
Within each new passport, a chip protected by shielding material contains an encrypted copy of the printed information on the passport: the bearer’s name, date of birth, validity period, and a digital photo enabling use of facial recognition technology at border crossings to authenticate the passport holder’s identity. The chip includes multiple layers of security, including “basic access control” which requires inspectors to pass the document over a scanner that reads coded information, and then authorizes the electronic reader to access the data stored on the chip. Data transmission occurs over a distance of about four inches (10cm). Security mechanisms on the Infineon chips include sophisticated computing methods for encrypting data, and active protective shields on the surface of the chip and sensors that help prevent unauthorized people from being able to read the contents of the chip.
Infineon already supplies chips to more than 20 other countries that are testing or already using electronic passports, including Germany, Hong Kong, Norway, and Sweden. The company also provides secure chips used in electronic identity documents used in Italy, Finland, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Belgium, and Hong Kong, as well as in secure identification cards issued by the US Department of Defense.