Chip manufacturers Infineon Technologies and NXP Semiconductors Germany along with smart card manufacturer Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) are among the 11 companies from six EU countries participating in the BioP@ss research project to develop a high-security chip card platform.
The biggest chip card research project in the EU, BioP@ss aims to do the technical spadework for the introduction of an electronic ID card in chip card format valid throughout the entire EU. As well as functioning as an ID card, it will be capable of providing a secure means of authentication for services offered by governments and public authorities, with BioP@ss
-holders able to identify themselves electronically and carry out biometric authentication on the Internet. The EU has a population of about 500 million with an estimated 380 million ID cards currently in circulation.
The project aims to make chip card technology even more secure and easier to use so EU citizens can access government and public authority services by using their ID card on the Internet. Potential uses include registering a change of address, registering a vehicle, filing a tax return (eGovernment), casting a vote in elections (eVoting) and other services provided by the retail, banking and insurance sectors (eBusiness). It entails the further development of the security chips, card operating system and security software for the Internet PCs used by the citizens and public authorities to ensure they conform to the various national ID document standards already developed by EU member states.
According to G&D, one example of such an ID document standard is the one for the European Citizen Card, which is designed to enable EU citizens to file their tax returns from anywhere in Europe. The card enables electronic identification and authentication and the use of an electronic signature on the Internet.
In their contribution to the BioP@ss project, Infineon and NXP say they are working on refining chip encryption technologies. They are also focusing on enhancing the data transfer rates between chip card and reader. G&D is developing a chip card operating system which will use conventional Internet protocols such as TCP/IP, HTTP, TLS and SOAP to allow the chip cards to be used with Internet PCs without needing to install additional software. The chip card can connect to the PC wirelessly or via a USB interface.
The project, scheduled to be completed by the end of June 2011, has a total budget of 13 million euros, half of which is being provided by the participating partners from business and industry. The other half is covered by funds from the European EUREKA clusters CATRENE/MEDEA+, which are provided by the national governments. As part of the German federal government’s Hightech-Strategy and the Informations und Kommunikationstechnologie 2020 (IKT 2020) funding programme, the Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is supporting the BioP@ss project to the tune of 2.8 million euros. According to G&D, one of the aims of the IKT 2020 programme is to consolidate and strengthen Germany’s technological lead in the field of information and communication technology. The support for BioP@ass is intended to further open up the international market for the chip card technology that Germany has helped develop.