SAN JOSE, Calif. & MUNICH, Germany /BUSINESS WIRE/ -- Infineon Technologies AG announced that it received a multimillion-piece purchase order from the U.S. government to supply its highly secure integrated circuit technology for the new electronic passport. Designed to facilitate international travel by allowing automatic identity verification, faster immigration inspections, and greater border protection and security, the new passports include a computer chip in the back cover that securely stores the same information that is printed on the document.
The U.S. began issuing electronic passports to diplomats and other government workers in late 2005 and is now expanding the program to include the widely issued tourist passport used by private citizens. By the end of this year, the government expects that all new U.S. passports will be issued as electronic passports.
"The United States is helping to set the pace for adoption of more secure travel documents around the world," said Christopher Cook, managing director of Infineon Technologies North America Corp. "As the leading supplier of the specialized chips used for secure personal identification, financial transactions, and access to electronic systems, our chips have successfully passed some of the most stringent security tests in the world. We are very happy to be chosen to supply the electronics for the large-scale rollout of the U.S. electronic passport."
Infineon supplies its secure identification chips to more than 20 countries that have begun to use electronic passports or have begun to test the technology, including Germany, Hong Kong, Norway, and Sweden. In addition, Infineon provides the secure chips inside electronic identity documents used in such countries as Italy, Finland, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and Belgium, as well as by Hong Kong. The chips are also used by the U.S. Department of Defense in its secure identification cards.
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As a security measure, the U.S. Congress passed legislation requiring that countries participating in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program must issue passports with secure chip technology by October 2006. Concurrently, the U.S. adopted this technology to conform to specifications for electronic passports developed by the international standards body for travel documents, the International Civil Aviation Organization.
In the past ten years, the U.S. has issued more than 67 million passports, which are valid for ten years from date of issue. The U.S. government estimates that up to 15 million new passports will be issued in the first full year of the electronic passport rollout, which currently represents the single biggest electronic passport project worldwide. Each new passport will contain a chip protected by shielding material, which contains an encrypted copy of the printed information on the passport, including the bearer's name, date of birth, validity period, and a digital photo of the individual. The digital photo allows the use of facial recognition technology at border crossings to authenticate the passport holder's identity.
The electronic passport is designed with multiple layers of security to protect the privacy of holders. This includes Basic Access Control (BAC), which requires the border control inspector to pass the document over a scanner that reads coded information and then authorizes the electronic reader to access the data stored on the chip. The actual data transmission occurs over a distance of about four inches (10 centimeters). In addition to shielding and BAC, there are more than 50 individual security mechanisms inside the Infineon chip, including sophisticated computing methods for encrypting data, to help ensure that personal data remains private. Security mechanisms on the Infineon chips also include active protective shields on the surface of the chip and sensors that help prevent unauthorized people from being able to read the contents of the chip.
Infineon Technologies AG, Munich, Germany, offers semiconductor and system solutions for automotive, industrial, and multimarket sectors for applications in communication, as well as memory products through its subsidiary Qimonda. With a global presence, Infineon operates through its subsidiaries in the U.S. from San Jose, CA; in the Asia-Pacific region from Singapore; and in Japan from Tokyo. In fiscal year 2005 (ending September), the company achieved sales of Euro 6.76 billion with about 36,400 employees worldwide. Further information is available at the company's Web site. Information on Qimonda is available at the company's Web site.