Gemalto and Altech Card Solutions win smart ID card contract

July 2013 News

At long last, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs has announced the end of the country’s prehistoric green Identity (ID) book. The new smart ID cards that will be replacing them will be very secure and almost impossible to forge – or so we hear.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to Eric Billiaert, communication director for government programmes at Gemalto, and Derek Chaplin, MD of Altech Card Solutions about the multi-million rand, multi-year deal.

Altech Card Solutions’ role is a R40 million contract to provide the Government Printing Works with card personalisation equipment and technical support and training.

According to Chaplin, the company will be working with the Government Printing Works to provide the equipment as well as the expertise for the personalisation of the smart ID cards. “The equipment will enable the Government Printing Works to laser engrave the card owner’s photograph and other details onto the card in addition to ensuring that the card holder’s details are securely stored on the card’s microchip. This will eliminate the production and use of fraudulent IDs.”

Gemalto’s credit card-sized cards were chosen after an international tender process by Home Affairs. The cards, Sealys eID cards, are polycarbonate cards specifically designed for security and durability. The cards will hold a picture of the person on the surface – actually just below the surface to ensure pictures cannot be meddled with without breaking the card. They will also contain a microprocessor and software that allows details such as identity information and biometric data to be stored and securely encrypted on each card.

Any company or organisation with the appropriate reader will be able to use the card to verify an individual’s identity, either by matching the face of the individual to the image on the card and the digital image stored on the chip, as well as by fingerprint biometrics if required. Billiaert says there will be no information exchange, nor will there be the possibility to add information to the cards once printed, they can only be used to verify identities, returning a yes or no.

The card will also be contactless technology to make use more convenient. If Home Affairs decides to, it can also retain the signature of individuals on the cards, or issue a PIN as a way to legally sign a document when using the cards.

The card in question has been used in many secure identity projects, for example, in Portugal, Sweden and Finland, so South Africa is adopting current technology in its efforts to clean up the Department of Home Affairs. Every individual will have to provide their information and fingerprints to Home Affairs when applying for the card to ensure the department has the latest data to store on the cards.

The new cards will be rolled out from July this year and it is expected to take seven to nine years to replace all the green ID books in South Africa, according to Billiaert. This is a rate of approximately 3 million cards per year, which is the standard conversion time for this type of exercise.


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