A recent report by Acuity Market Intelligence predicted that – by 2015 – 85% of all credentials issued annually will be electronic identification or eID, and countries issuing eIDs will exceed those still using traditional IDs by four to one. Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Morocco, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Estonia and Spain are leading the charge in secure credentialing by using eIDs as their national identification card system.
What is eID?
The electronic identification card has all the basic information such as name, date of birth and photo printed on the front and back of the card, but the embedded microchip enables the card to act as a means of electronic verification. The embedded microchip can be scanned through contact and contactless interfaces, most commonly scanned using a card reader plugged into a computer.
In addition to all the information that is visible on the card, the chip contains the address of the citizen. The address is therefore not printed on the card. If the citizen moves, they will not need to get a new identity card. Once the citizen notifies the national registration of the move, the information will be updated on the microchip. Beyond just the address, the chip holds electronic signature and authentication certificates enabling citizens to complete online transactions using the card.
How does eID work?
Similar to a bank card, eIDs have a PIN number selected by the citizen. This PIN number must be entered in order to access or validate information when using the eID online. The eID provides the citizen with one system by which to make transactions online, so the citizen does not have to remember the username and password for each individual website with which they interact. The eID is also used for online verification of identity for elections as well as other government services such as libraries.
Card reader software and hardware are necessary in order to access the information on the microchip and use that information in conjunction with the PIN to make transactions online. The implementation of the eID usage was made simpler for Estonian residents when the government offered the hardware and software as an introductory package for twenty euros; adoption of the eID was slow in Belgium due to the lack of government assistance with the hardware and software.
eID in the US
The radio frequency identification enabled passports released in 2006 in the US hold the information that is printed in the passport for easy scanning in passport booths, but do not contain the technology for online verification as eIDs do. eID has not found its way into the US market for two main reasons; the necessary hardware and software makes the implementation of eIDs complicated, though citizens of the US could benefit from the size of the country as economies of scale may decrease the price for the implementation package significantly and the security concerns of having all that information available on a microchip have proven overwhelming.