India needs to define smartcard standards

By Benny Thomas   |    15 Comments
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India needs to define smartcard standards
Bangalore: Soon India is expected to go the smartcard way and many semiconductor companies are trying to grab the sea of opportunities in this emerging segment. However, there is a concern that is shared by these companies, "The standards in which the smartcards need to be designed and manufactured are yet to be defined by the government," says Vivek Sharma, Vice President APAC - India Operations and Director of India Design Centers, STMicroelectronics (ST). Delay in defining the standards could hamper the entrepreneurs to avail the opportunities available in this segment.

Gujarat was the first Indian state to introduce the smartcard license system in 1999. Gujarat government has issued more than five million smart card driving licenses. This card is basically a plastic card having ISO/IEC 7810 certification and integrated circuit, capable of storing and verifying information according to its programming. The identity smartcards issued by the Spanish and Belgian governments to its citizens contain two certificates: one for authentication and one for signature.

There is a need for industry's participation to define the standards for smartcards in India. "Most of the players in the industry would like to participate with the government to define the standards," says Sharma. The National ID cards in countries like Japan, Spain, Thailand, Bahrain and Italy use ST's smart card chip. In Germany and France, the health smart card also uses ST's chip technology. "We hope to bring our global standards to India," adds Sharma. The company has two Indian design centers in Noida and Bangalore, where more than 2,000 engineers work.

When dealing with the personal information of over a billion people, the security aspect cannot be ignored to prevent the misuse of data. Sharma says, "Security is a very important issue for smartcards." Looking at the potential in India, Sharma is confident that all the hardware and software required for the project can be developed within the country. These can be customized as per the needs of the country, providing the best security backup.

The demand for smartcards for Unique Identification Project (UID) of the government is also likely to fuel the demand for chips for card readers, terminals, biometric sensors, printers, personalization and computer systems.

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