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Raytheon Unveils ID Card, Fortifying RFID With Biometrics

The company believes its PAD card, which incorporates a fingerprint scanner for authentication, is well suited for use for the RFID-enabled passport card proposed by the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and State.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Feb 13, 2007The Intelligence and Information Systems business division of government defense, aviation and technology company Raytheon has unveiled a new RFID-based identification card. Dubbed the PAD—which stands for personal authentication device—this card incorporates a fingerprint biometric authentication function. The company is pitching the PAD for use in border security programs run by both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State.

Raytheon believes the PAD is particularly fitting for use as the proposed RFID-enabled passport card, part of the PASS (People Access Security Service) system introduced last year by DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. The intended purpose of the PASS card—which would be used instead of a passport for land or sea travel in the Western Hemisphere—is to improve border security while also facilitating the flow of legitimate travel and trade over U.S. borders (see DHS Proposes Vicinity RFID Technology for Passport Card). The agencies' plan is to embed passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags in the passport card that conform to the ISO 18000 6-C specification and have a read range up to 20 feet. However, after receiving a number of public comments opposing this plan, they extended the public comment period from its original Dec. 18, 2006, end date to Jan. 8, 2007 (see DHS Privacy Committee Finalizes Report on RFID IDs).

The government is still reviewing comments and has not yet announced its next step. Many complaints came from vendors of high-frequency RFID technology, who claim UHF technology is inappropriate because UHF's long read range would make the card vulnerable to skimming (the surreptitious reading of a tag by an unauthorized third party) or eavesdropping (the unauthorized interception of RF transmissions between a card and reader). The shorter read range and data encryption tools available with high- or low-frequency inlays, UHF's critics say, would protect against these vulnerabilities.

Guy Swope, Raytheon's senior biometrics architect, says the PAD could support data encryption for the UHF EPC Gen 2/ISO 18000-6C inlay inside the PAD. While Gen 2 chips do not offer enough processing power to support the most widely used means of data encryption (which are used for protecting data encoded to ISO 14443 and ISO 15693 HF inlays), the processor used to perform the biometric matching provides enough memory for tag data encryption. However, Swope notes, Raytheon is only interested in deploying a data encryption process that is viewed as an industry standard, and no such process has yet been identified for Gen 2 tags.

The front face of the PAD, which is roughly the size of a credit card, could be printed with information about the cardholder, such name and birth date, along with a photograph. In the middle of the card would be a small fingerprint scanner. To authenticate that the rightful owner is presenting the ID, the cardholder would press a thumb onto the fingerprint scanner while using another finger to press an on/off switch on the back of the card to engage the battery required to operate it.

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