Biometric identity documents: a rapidly growing and increasingly diversified market

Date: Fri, 11/25/2011 - 15:32 Source: Cartes press department

Comprising national identity cards, health cards, e-passports, visas, residence permits, driving licences, tachographs and so on, the personal identity market should reach €7.5 billion in 2014

Biometric identity documents: a rapidly growing and increasingly diversified market Image credited to Cartes

Eurosmart forecasts the delivery of 225 million secure identity documents (up 18% compared to 2010) throughout the world this year.
A rapidly growing market
The indications and opinions all point towards a rapidly growing and increasingly diverse market for identity cards and e-passports, and more generally that of secure identity documents, issued by states or businesses. Eurosmart forecasts that 225 million electronic identity documents will be delivered in the world this year, which represents an increase of 18% compare to 2010. The latest Pira International study (February 2010) on the market for personal identity technology predicts an annual increase of around 12% over 7 years and a market which should reach €7.5 billion in 2014.
The market for e-passports: 250 million issued in 75 countries at the end of 2010
Since 2004, there has been a steady increase in the number of first generation biometric passports, complying with ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) norms, being issued. At the end of 2010, more than 250 million documents of this type had bee delivered in more than 75 countries throughout the world. Canada remains the only developed country to have deferred, once again, its plan to issue this type of document whereas China began its first trials at the beginning of the year.
The rapid growth of biometric identity cards 
The case of national identity cards is a little more mixed. The launch of the biggest biometric census project in the world in India in 2010, aiming to provide more than a billion Indians with a unique identification number (UID), came at the same time as Great Britain abandoned, for political and financial reasons, its national identity card project, despite the fact that it had been set out in the 2006 "Identity Cards Act". This also corresponded to the launch of the German national identity card (80 million contactless cards to be rolled out) and to the announcement of a parliamentary bill in France to launch a contact and contactless identity card, corresponding, like the German card, to the European IAS (Identification Authentication Signature) specifications. More recently, Turkey announced that it was in the final stages of developing a national identity card (75 million cards and over 100,000 biometric readers to be rolled out over 5 years), henceforth compliant with the European IAS standards rather than the American NIST (National Institute of Standardisation and Technology technical recommendations which it followed for its first version. Despite political vicissitudes with which national identity card projects are certainly faced, the global market is growing rapidly and at a pace with e-passports. All the key players in the industry (Gemalto, Morpho, Oberthur Technologies, Giesecke&Devrient, Smartrac, ASK, etc.) have been reporting an increase in activity in the personal identity sector over the past two or three years, often in double figures. The latter now increasingly includes company cards for IAM (Identity Access Management) applications.
Source: Pira International study
Biometrics and security
In addition, these rapidly growing markets are tending to widen, encompassing an increasing number of applications. The fight against identity theft and fraud, but also the advantage to states of having a national identity register able to serve as a secured database for democratic elections and more recently still the need to secure the internet and to set up new services for citizens, are major factors which are advancing this market and technological innovations. In the United States, for example, several states are about to issue secure driving licences thanks to a six-layer, laser-engraving technique which enables a 3D photograph to be incorporated into the body of the card. In France, it seems to have been accepted that future driving licences will incorporate an electronic chip similar to the one used on e-passports. In mid-May the American government launched an unprecedented initiative to "secure cyberspace", calling upon international collaboration and making explicit reference to the need to roll out smart cards. A few weeks previously, the NIST had published a document outlining security recommendations in order to protect the vast production and electricity networks (smart grids), again making reference to the key role played by the switch to smart identity cards. This also concerns other areas: the biometric census of populations in a certain number of African countries enables the IMF in particular and humanitarian organisations to quantify aid requirements. Biometric checks carried out off-line make it possible to determine whether aid distributed to populations does in fact reach the people in question.


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