As Registered Travel gets nears, smart card interoperability issues emerge

Published 24 January 2006

As more and more travel documents around the world begin to carry biometric data, the issue of standardization of formats for frequent flier smart cards, and of the readers and biometric data storage for the cards, becomes an issue. Unless the products of different vendors in this field are interoperable, the whole system will come to a halt. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced yesterday that its Registered Traveler program will go into effect one 20 June, and the agency is now seeking contractor ideas on possible business models and technology for the program by 30 January.

Registered Traveler has been in the pilot phase in several airports around the United States, but these airports’ programs were not interoperable with each other: For example, smart cards issued by one airport could not be used at other airports. TSA says that as it launches the program this summer, it wants cards issued in one airport to be readable in all domestic U.S. airports, and that they may eventually be interoperable among international airports and possibly land ports along the Canadian and Mexico borders.

Prospective vendors have until April 20 to submit a plan to TSA on how they would achieve interoperability for Registered Traveler. TSA may get help from a newly formed coalition of companies aiming to encourage biometric smart card interoperability: The Voluntary Credentialing Industry Coalition. Members include ImageWare Systems, Arinc, GE Security, Iridian Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Panasonic, Saflink, and Verified Identity Pass. The coalition’s leader is Tom Blank, vice chairman of Washington, D.C.-based Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, and former acting deputy administrator at TSA.

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