Singapore unveils standard for smart card ID

Government's objective is to unify disparate standards currently used in different identification cards and readers in the island-state.

SINGAPORE--A national standard for smart card identification has been launched to ensure multiple cards can be read by a single reader.

In a statement released Tuesday, Spring Singapore, a government body that establishes industry standards, said one reader is all that will be needed in the future to scan e-passports and ID cards or devices based on a smart card chip, that are aligned with the standard.

Dubbed the Singapore Standard for Smart Card ID (SSID)--or SS 529 SSID, the standard is expected to facilitate interoperability between different chip-based identification (ID) cards and their readers, by specifying the data structure, security and access requirements contained in ID cards or devices based on a smart card chip. These devices include personal digital assistants (PDAs), watches and mobile phones.

The standard is based on the specifications for electronic passports developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), according to Spring Singapore.

"Different ID cards have different formats and are protected by different security access control and trust mechanisms. [As such,] it is costly to do automated reading and verification of cards from different issuers as different hardware and software are needed," Loh Khum Yean, Spring Singapore's chief executive, said in a statement.

However, with a standard in place to "define the format of the data, how it is encoded onto the chip and where to place the chip on the card", it will be possible for multiple cards to be read by a single reader, and this will benefit the industry by reducing costs and improving interoperability, Loh added.

Some 40,000 smart card readers are currently being deployed in government and private organizations in the island-state, and these exclude readers for financial payment.

Based on a "conservative" estimate of S$300 (US$208) per card reader, a one-time migration of all the readers for one standard could amount to approximately S$12 million (US$8.4 million), while the amount could snowball to some S$48 million (US$33.3 million) if based on "four different but yet widely used ID standards", Spring Singapore noted.

Two organizations in Singapore are piloting cards and readers based on the new standard. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and the Port of Singapore Authority have issued 70,000 ID cards and 100,000 ID cards to their staff respectively, primarily for identification and door access control.

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