Brite iD, a UK-based manufacturer of ePassport covers, data pages and contactless smart cards products, claims to have become the first manufacturer to have its product officially tested and certified to meet the latest durability specification for electronic passports.
Bearing in mind the five or ten year life expectancy of ePassports, durability is a major concern. The test methods and specifications were drawn up by ISO/IEC Task Force 4, to whom ICAO delegated the development of a formal durability testing specification.
The tests were carried out by Pira International in accordance with the Task Force 4 committee’s latest recommendations, following its meetings in November 2005 and February 2006.
The purpose of the tests was to predict whether the contactless chip will function correctly during a simulated 10 year lifetime. Pira performed the test on complete passports containing a fully programmed contactless chip and antenna embedded within the back page of the iLam cover of the booklets (see explanation of iLam below).
Paul Bagnall, managing director of Brite iD, expects the certification to assist it in winning contracts for the supply of ePassports products. He commented: “Up to now, passport printers and system integrators have had to carry out their own durability testing or rely on suppliers’ results from in-house tests. We can now provide independent test results based on the latest proposals from the Task Force.”
Brite iD’s iLam products are complete covers and data pages rather than inlays, which, according to the supplier, makes them easier to incorporate into existing passport lines and particularly robust against attempts to replace the contactless chip.
Following on from this certification, the company has announced plans to expand its manufacturing facilities in order to cope with the anticipated increase in orders for its ePassport covers and data pages. It is now seeking outside partners or investors.
The key difference between iLam and the many other systems on the market is the method of encasing and protecting the chip against damage and tampering. The chip and antenna are embedded in a polyester-based elastomer core which is sealed under heat and pressure to two outside layers without adhesive. The core is said to be more flexible and less brittle than polycarbonate, while offering better protection to the chip than paper or thin plastic based inlays.
As the bonding uses no adhesive, it is not possible to freeze or heat the inlay to remove the outside layers and access the chip without irreparable damage. A further claimed benefit of an iLam inlay is that it can be used in a standard passport production line without modification.
iLam inlays can be used in any of the three chip positions allowable under ICAO regulations – cover, data page or between the centre pages.