Sep 7, 2009

Indian E-passport Project - An opportunity for Bartronics!

The Union Government has kick-started the process of scouting for suppliers of electronic components for another 20 million e-passports, in a move that could bring fresh business for smart card vendors, chip makers and IT firms.

This is part of the Government’s mandate to extend the e-passport programme beyond diplomats and Government officials to the ‘aam aadmi’ starting September.

Over the next 24 months, the Security Printing & Minting Corporation (SPMC) of India expects to procure 20 million electronic contacts-less inlays along with its operating software for the production of e-passports.

According to the tender document, the inlays have to be electronic contact-less type according to SCOSTA-CL requirements. (SCOSTA is a smart card operating system standard as developed by the National Informatics Centre.)

The inlay is a laminate consisting of a core containing the RFID chip and antenna, with outer layers of sheet material.

Each inlay that the Government is going to procure is expected to cost between Rs 10 and Rs 60 depending on the sophistication required, says Mr Sudhir Rao, Managing Director, Bartronics India, a leading smartcard maker.

Based on the 20 million inlays required for the first batch, the SPMC tender would be valued around Rs 60 crore, he said.

Apart from Bartronics, Germany-based Sagem Orga (through Smart Chip India) and Amsterdam-based Gemalto are expected to bid for the project.

Mr Alok Mukherjee, Director- Finance of Smart Chip India, is of the view that the entire process of deployment of the inlays would begin by next fiscal.

At present, a passport contains facial imprint, but an e-passport will have all the personal details, including fingerprints, of the person carrying it.

The pilot e-passport Programme was started on June 25 last year and the first 10,000 passports were issued to diplomats and senior Government officials.

However, the most important component in an e-passport is the RFID chip, which contains the biometric data of the passport holder.

The Ministry of External Affairs is expected to come out with a ‘multi-million’ dollar tender for the same within the next one month, Ministry sources told Business Line.

Chip makers NXP Semiconductors and Infineon (a Siemens company) are expected to bid for this project.

“We have already made presentations to the Government authorities; our chips are fully certified to work on the local SCOSTA standards. We have deputed one architect level person from India who is working to ensure that our chips are interoperable,” said Mr Neeraj Paliwal, Vice-President, SoC Design, NXP.

He is of the view that the country could have around 200 million e-passports in the next 3-5 years.

Experts believe that the IT infrastructure required for operating the e-passport system – which includes electronically linking various e-passport terminals – would be anywhere upwards of Rs 300 crore.

This would provide significant opportunities for firms such as Tata Consultancy Services, HCL and Wipro.

“Each card is expected to cost from between Rs. 10 -- Rs. 60″, Mr Sudhir Rao, Managing Director, Bartronics India said. The company is a leading smart card maker. There will be several companies bidding for the project.

As of now, around 10,000 passports have been issued since June 25th last year. If reports are to be believed, we could have around 200 million of these in the next 3-5 years.

We’ve been hearing about the Unique Identification Number for quite some time, that along with the e-passport is a significant step the government is taking towards better, more organized governance.

The benefits, of course are humongous, starting from easy issuing, to enabled verification. It is expected to result in the issue of passports within three days and in cases requiring police verification, within three days after completion of the verification process. Tatkal passports would be issued on the day of submission of the application. The Government has planned to have 68 passport facilitation centers across the country to verify documents and decide on granting the passport. Police verification would be expedited through electronic linkage of these facilitation centers with the police authorities in State capitals.

No comments: