Contactless Smart Cards-Technology of the Future : Greg Pote, Chairman, Asia Pacific Smart Card Association

For the public sector, there may be different attitudes to the introduction of smart cards for citizens applications.  In many of the developing countries there is less interest in privacy issues from citizens and their governments whereas in the developed countries these issues of data privacy a major focus for both citizens and their governments.  Says Greg Pote (, Chairman, Asia Pacific Smart Card Association, in an interview with the egov magazine.

  What are the roles and objectives of Asia Pacific Smart Card Association (APSCA)?

The Asia Pacific Smart Card Association ( serves the smart card industry and its markets in the Asia Pacific. Established in 1997, APSCA is the only regional,

non-profit, independent association for organisations in the smart card business in Asia Pacific. The Association’s core value is the ability to bring key decision-makers in the smart industry together to meet, face-to-face on a regular basis. APSCA has over 40 members in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and Pakistan.

The Association delivers information, consultancy, guidance and networking to corporations and government organisations, including smart card scheme operators and suppliers, providing an unparalleled opportunity to solve problems, facilitate smart card initiatives and generate increased business development.

Apart from organising more than 100 events, seminars, trainings and conferences covering all aspects of smart cards, APSCA has assisted government smart card projects, national card payment policies and produced increased business for APSCA members.

  Could you brief us about smart card and RFID technologies and its application in the public sector?

Smart card applications now include:

  • SIM cards for mobile telephony, including Near Field Communications (NFC) and contactless mobile payments
  • Financial credit, debit, pre-paid and ATM cards, including contactless payment cards
  • Stored value cards and retailer loyalty cards
  • Transport cards for automated revenue collection
  • National smart identity cards and e-Passports
  • Smart health cards and social security cards
  • Smart cards for enterprise ID and identity management
  • Registered traveller and frequent flyer smart cards for airlines

Many of the smart card applications are now based on contactless smart cards or introducing contactless smart cards.  (Note the term “RFID” is not typically used to refer to smart cards and is widely accepted as referring to the identification of items which typically involve very low security RFID. RFID for personal applications of identity and payment require stringent security and referred to in the industry as contactless applications).

The key applications of smart card and contactless smart cards in the public sector are e-Passport, national smart identity cards, national health cards, national driving licences, government (government employees including military and also or service workers) identity cards. Of these the most rapidly growing sector is the e-Passport due to the international interoperable standards developed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) for the next-generation of machine-readable travel documents based on contactless chips and including biometrics. The next largest sector is the national smart identity card. While national smart identity cards are a growing market they have been hampered by the lack of any common standard (different countries have been developing their own proprietary systems and standards for their national smart identity cards). This is now changing as the ICAO standards and specifications for contactless e-Passports are beginning to influence the development of national smart identity cards, which should make it easier to launch this national identity documents in the future. The third-largest application in the public sector is national smart health cards which, like national smart identity cards, are also typically issued to most citizens in a country where they are launched. National smart health cards have also been hampered by a lack of international interoperable standards for medical informatics and e-Health. The market for national smart health cards has considerable potential for further development.

  Could you share some of the successful deployment of smart card in the public sector?

Countries that have already implemented e-Passports include: Andorra; Australia; Austria; Belgium; Czech Republic; Denmark; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Hong Kong; Hungary; Iceland; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macedonia; Monaco; New Zealand; Norway; Poland; Portugal; San Marino; Singapore; Slovenia; Somalia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Thailand; The Netherlands; United Kingdom; and United States.

There are at least another 25 countries currently implementing e-Passport projects.

Countries that have issued, or are rolling out national smart identity cards are: Malaysia, Brunei, Hong Kong, Macau, China, Thailand, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. A number of other countries are currently planning to roll out national smart ID cards.

Countries that have issued, or are rolling out national smart health/smart social security cards: Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Slovenia, Finland, Taiwan, China. Several other countries currently planning to roll out national smart health cards.

  What is the political buy-in for smart card technology in the Asia-Pacific region?

It is fair to say that most public sector and private sector organisations have now accepted that the introduction of smart card technology is inevitable for a wide variety of reasons and applications.

  What is the difference between the developed and developing countries in the deployment of smart card technologies?

There are a number of reasons.  For the public sector, there may be different attitudes to the introduction of smart cards for citizens applications.  In many of the developed countries there is less interest in privacy issues from citizens and their governments whereas in the developing countries these issues of data privacy is a major focus for both citizens and their governments.  In terms of the implementation of smart card deployment in the public sector, developed countries are far more likely to manage this through open tenders and bidding to obtain best of breed implementations.  Developed countries may be more likely to assign a project to a single organisation, often a national organisation with strong links to government.

  Do you think, multi-application smart cards will be a solution for better public service delivery?

In theory yes.  But combining applications from different government departments on a single card for citizens is fraught with many problems.  These problems are related to political issues and the business case for multi-application cards and not with any smart card technology issues.  Quite simply, it is very difficult to get government departments to agree on how their respective applications should be implemented on a single card.  In practice, it looks increasingly likely that the major applications (identity, health, driving license, etc) are unlikely to be combined on a single card for citizens.

  What is the amount of security risk involved in the smart card applications?

Security is a key aspect in the design of all identity and payment applications.  Security needs to be designed from the bottom up and includes not only the card itself but the systems which support and interact with smart cards.  In any well-designed smart card scheme, the security risks need to be managed appropriately and this requires a certain amount of knowledge from end-users.  End users in many business sectors are beginning to learn of the security issues to be addressed. Unfortunately the world’s leading smart card solutions providers have many years of experience in developing such security solutions to address these issues.

  What will be the future development in the smart card technology?

There is a clear trend towards the introduction of contactless smart card technology in most business sectors. In some cases this will include the introduction of contactless smart card technologies in mobile phones which will further widen the scope and application for smart card applications. There is also a clear trend in the introduction of biometric technologies for public sector applications. In many cases biometric applications work best with smart card technologies and we are likely to see the two combined increasingly in the future.  In the long-term it is likely that biometric and smart card technologies will also make their appearance in the private sector for consumer applications.