Passport of the Future

11 August 2008 at 19:32 | Posted in Airport Security, Aviation Security, Electronic Identification, Ideas, IT Security, passport, Security | Leave a comment
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[Category: Ideas. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

Yesterday a friend of mine, who is prone to forgetting his passport as well as losing it from time to time due to forgetfulness, asked me: “George, what do you think is the future of passports?”. He was wondering whether there would ever be a better solution than having to remember carrying a small booklet around the world to prove his identity.

So I gave him my vision of the future of passports, which I believe will be more or less as follows:

First there will be a process of (further) standardisation, computerisation and globalisation. This may lead to the passport as a booklet being replaced, say in 10 to 20 years, by a smart card of some sort (probably a credit card sized plastic document with embedded RFID-type chip). The smart card will contain all relevant user data including travel history, biometric identification data, photo, etc.

All the technology is available, main problems are with global standardisation and systems integration (which can only happen as fast as politicians work, e.g. generally slow) as well as with security.

Once this stage has been reached, further convergence will be possible, towards everyone carrying only one card or similar item which contains the passport data, but which can be loaded with additional functionality such as driver license data, bank card data, health records, phone data, and random additional items such as gym access, security access to buildings, cars, etc. etc.

The main issue there once again will be security, but it will be possible to overcome this (although of course nothing is ever totally secure). The card data may be transferable to authorized devices such as cellphones (so the cellphone could be used as passport, etc.) or for the owner to create a read-only backup copy.

The next step after this will be embedding. The “converged passport” will be embedded into the body in the form of an implanted chip, much like more basic chips (usually based on RFID technology) are already implanted in animals and in some humans.

At this stage, more data will likely be added to the implant (for example it would be nice if we could carry our computer data within our body). Our body would communicate with various wireless networks as we walk down the street (for example receiving messages), access buildings, our bank accounts, enter new countries, enter our cars (which will only start with us or an authorized person at the wheel), etc.

As an added form of security, DNA sequencing should be fast enough at this stage to allow it to be used for authentication purposes (perhaps not sequencing someone’s entire DNA, but a few key points that are unique idetifiers, much like fingerprint scanning only scans for a few unique identifiers and does not deal with the entire fingerprint).

So I answered my friend that in the end, we will be our passports: all current passport data – and much more – will be carried within our bodies.

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

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