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By Beth Bacheldor

SeManTiK Initiative Studies Physical Endurance of Contactless Smart Cards
Contactless electronic identity documents (eIDs) in the form of smart cards are expected to be used for a variety of applications, including as identity cards, public transportation tickets, library cards and more. But with this broader use comes greater physical stresses and risks to the cards, according to a group consisting of Bundesdruckerei, Infineon Technologies and the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration. The trio conducted a two-year research initiative, known as SeManTik, that studied the use of eIDs and developed realistic test methods and simulation models, while also exploring new methods of integrating the chip into the card body.

"If contactless eIDs are to be used several times a day in the future, they must withstand significantly greater stress than before," said Peter Stampka, an initiator and project manager at Infineon Technologies, in a prepared statement. "The results from SeManTiK will help to improve the mechanical strength of contactless eIDs and are therefore also an important step towards achieving parity between the optical and electronic security of ID documents."

More than 35,000 cards were packaged, tested, analyzed and evaluated in 20 different test combinations, according to the partnership. The new test sequences developed during the project made it possible to obtain high reliability and precise confirmation of failure rates and patterns—results that were observed in international smart card projects with more than 50 million cards in day-to-day use, the partnership said. According to a spokesperson for Bundesdruckerei, the test sequences developed as part of SeManTiK consist of a specific roller bending test, followed by a test as described in ISO/IEC 10373-1, and another roller bending test. The sequence enabled researchers to derive an indication of the expected (constant) field failure rate per year in the event of severe mechanical impact during the use of the smart card (failures, for example, while being used with public transport applications).

According to the spokesperson, the results of the tests are being shared with the international standardization community, in particular ISO/IEC JTC1/SC17/WG1, with the aim of further advancing standardized test methods for smart cards. A detailed project report is expected to soon be made available from the TIB Hannover, German National Library of Science and Technology.

The SeManTiK project was sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), with €1.8 million ($2.4 million) over a span of 2.5 years. Experts with Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office for forensic and methodological analyses, as well as those working in the field of substrate materials for Specialty Films of Bayer MaterialScience AG, also contributed to the research work.

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